Bobby Locke resigned as boys’ varsity basketball coach at Evanston Township High School on Friday and has already signed on to coach at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep Academy High School in Chicago. Locke was 92-55 in five seasons in ETHS, leading the Wildkits to a third-place finish in Class 4A in 2008 and a super-sectional appearance in 2007.

Most surprising about the resignation is that less than a month ago, Locke was talking about how his team was preparing for this coming winter season and how excited he was about this squad coming in.

“The chemistry this summer has been good and now I just want to make sure that translates into the season. What we have right now is potential, and the question is, how do we turn it into reality? Last year we were great in the summer, and then the nerves and the reality of playing varsity basketball for the first time came out and it was like culture shock for some of them,” Coach Locke said in July.

But just as the players were getting prepared for more summer training, Locke has left his former team and fans stunned.

Locke is very familiar to the Public League. He was a standout player at Whitney Young in the early ’80s. At Brooks, he will inherit a team loaded with talent, despite their having a down-year last season: All-City guard George Marshall, a Wisconsin recruit, and All-Conference forwards Keith and Kevin Gray. This talent, along with the opportunity to coach in the toughest league in the state, may have drawn Locke into leaving Evanston.

Locke himself has stated how excited he is to start his new job.

“I’m very grateful to [principal] Dr. [Dushon] Brown for giving me this opportunity,” Locke said. “I love coaching and I want to do a great job. I will give 100 percent of myself, and I expect every player who laces them up to give the same effort. That’s the way I was taught and that’s the way I played.”

Now the big question is who will replace Locke at the helm at ETHS. The Wildkits have a lot of talent returning this year, including senior star point guard Garrett Jones, and a very good big man in fellow senior James Farr, who has opened a lot of eyes with stellar play this summer.

Speculation focuses on two big-name possibilities for a new head basketball coach: Rick Malnati and Rocky Hill.

But questions surround both: whether Mr. Malnati, the former long-time New Trier basketball coach who stepped down two seasons ago, would be interested in coaching once again, and whether Mr. Hill, the former great Thornton coach, would be interested in a coaching job as far north as Evanston.

Loyola coach Tom Livatino, one of the final candidates five years ago before Locke was hired, is reportedly happy with his current job and is not interested with this new opening. Livatino’s brother Chris is ETHS’s athletic director.

“I think Bobby did a great job with us,” Chris Livatino said. “We really appreciate everything he did for us while he was here.”

Chris Livatino said there is no timeline in place yet for hiring a new coach. ETHS will begin its school year in less than two weeks, and the basketball players need a coach to prepare for their upcoming season.