Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who could become the winningest HS hoops coach in Illinois? Who would want to be?

HighBeam Research

Title: It might take Joe Spooh to break wins record.(Sports)

Date: March 18, 1999 Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Author: Bush, Joe
Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Joe Spooh is 23, and a head varsity basketball coach at a well-funded parochial school.
He was a slick-shooting basketball legend at the orphanage, and decided long ago that coaching is his calling, so much so that he swears he'll stay single until he meets a female basketball coach who doesn't want children, doesn't care how much money he makes, and whose parents live in Europe.
No family holiday obligations for him.
He's our choice as the man to one day break Dick Van Scyoc's Illinois high school career-wins record of 826.
The problem is, he doesn't exist (Spooh is hoops spelled backward).
* * *
Three very real men are the most likely to eclipse the mark Van Scyoc reached in a 44-year, four-school career: Gallatin County's Bob Dallas, Bunker Hill's Jim Hlafka and Okawville's David Luechtefeld.
By most likely, we mean slim chance.
Dallas is 69 years old, and needs four 20-win seasons. At a breakfast with Van Scyoc last year, the retired coach said to the active one, "You're the guy who's going to come up and beat my record."
"I said, 'No, don't worry about that,' " Dallas said.
Hlafka is 116 victories from the top, which, even though he's 65 years old, is conceiveable. Six more 20-win campaigns would put him at 71.
The hole in that hypothesis is that he figures next year's inexperienced squad will win four games, then do well to reach .500 the year after.
"I'm not worried about victories," Hlafka said. "That's just longevity. I want to help kids."
At 58, Luechtefeld seems a lock to hang on for the six 20-win seasons he needs. He could even suffer a down year or two.
If it wasn't for his darn side job.
Luechtefeld just earned his second election to a four-year state-senatorship term.
"I'm not going to (coach) a whole lot longer," the senator said from his office in Springfield. "I do not intend to stay in it long enough to break the record."
So there you go. Who among coaching's present or next generation will break Van Scyoc's record? No, not who will. Who can?
"That record looms bigger and bigger every year," Dallas said.
* * *
Naperville North coach Mark Lindo turned 41 and won his 300th game on the same day two weeks ago.
While the Huskies athletic staff rolled out a Happy Birthday/300 Wins cake for fans and players to enjoy after the game, a reporter did some quick math.
Jeez, relatively young Coach, you've got a chance to put up some pretty big numbers, huh?
"Naw, I'll never be in it long enough," Lindo said without any hesitation.
If Lindo feels that way, Van Scyoc's record may last until the ball is rectangular and the court is round. Times have changed in Van Scyoc's favor.
First of all, the Illinois High School Association says teams can't play as many regular-season games as their ancestors could (St. Elizabeth was 48-3 in 1956-57; Taylorville was 45-0 in 1944).
Secondly - and this is what Lindo was referring to - coaching varsity basketball has become a year-round grind in the last 15 years.
"They've gone crazy," said Chuck Rolinski, who's not only the executive director of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, but the retired owner of 649 wins in a 34-year career at Toluca.
"They're out of control. If you talk to 90 percent of the coaches, they hate it."
The hang-up is, everyone else is doing it.
There is the November-to-March season, there is spring weight lifting, there are summer leagues and camps and tournaments, and there is fall conditioning.
That's not all, said Dave Fenton, who burned out after five years in the top job at Wheaton North.
"When you're the varsity coach, you're responsible for all levels," Fenton said.
So there might also be off-season leagues for sophomores, and the organizing of a traveling squad for middle school kids.
Off-season work for Hlafka in the late 1960s consisted of getting the town leaders to build an outdoor court, then driving by to see which of his players were using it.
"It was easier then," he said.
Dallas is strongly against the extra work, and hasn't changed his ways. Besides, he's got a 750-acre farm to tend to.
He opens the gym once a week in the summer, and while he sees neighboring programs playing 80 to 90 games a year, he's not in favor of the extra load.
"I might add we beat some of them teams this year," he said just before chuckling in triumph.
* * *
Lisle's Mark D'Amico has numbers similar to Lindo's: He's 43 and has 252 wins.
Here's a stat D'Amico can also trot out: Of the eight coaches in the Interstate Eight Conference when Lisle joined in 1992, he is one of two who remain.
"I've looked at (the job) year to year," said D'Amico, a father of three children aged 11 and under. "As you get older, it gets harder and harder to release yourself from (family commitments)."
So we return to coach Spooh, our blueprint for the record-breaker.
He gets a head start on his wins total by working at a parochial school, where young teachers have a better chance to run a program. (Lindo started his career at Aurora Central Catholic when he was 24).
Spooh doesn't have parents, and if he marries that perfect woman, holiday visits to hers will be logistically prohibitive. If he never meets her, so much the better.
Now all he has to do is win 20 games per year for 41 years.
"It's going to be hard," said Addison Trail coach Matt Thompson.
Thompson is talking a good game - now. He's 31, and just finished his third year as the Blazers' head coach. He has 36 wins and two children.
"It's still early enough where something like (the record) hasn't entered my mind," he said. "I foresee myself doing this for the rest of my life."
Then Thompson added, "Lindo probably said this when he was four years in."

COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.

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