One of my best friends and a dear friend of many Ignatians, students and faculty, has passed away. Though he left Ignatius 38 years ago, I will miss him, and his memory will be cherished by so many whose lives he impacted.
Bob was a coach and Physical Education teacher at St. Ignatius for 15 years, from 1964 until 1979. His coaching career at Ignatius consisted of coaching freshmen baseball, varsity baseball, sophomore basketball and, finally, for 11 years, varsity basketball. I was his assistant coach for 9 of the 11 years that he was head basketball coach. Even after Bob went on to "greener pasturers", we stayed in contact and he continued to be my friend and mentor.
To his players, Bob was not only a wonderful teacher, but an inspiration. Despite being retired from high school coaching for 38 years, many of his former players stayed in contact, even travelling to visit with him in Arizona where he lived with his wife, Pat. Bob had a clarity of vision in his approach. He was a big advocate of the cliché K.I.S.S., “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. He made sure that the players knew what was expected of them and he was strict about their following his directions. He also knew that it was important for them to take pleasure…have “fun”…in being a part of the program, and would often join them in the scrimmages and physical training activities.
Bob understood the importance of physical conditioning, and he did not let the fact that Ignatius was struggling financially in the early '70's stand in the way of improving the facilities or the program. He did some low-level fund raising, and used the proceeds to buy the Universal Gym, an apparatus on which his players trained diligently. On the importance of physical conditioning, following a soccer game early in Jim Luzzi’s coaching career, Jim wrote, that, while Bob admitted to knowing little about soccer, “he said that it looked like we lost because the other team was in better shape than we were and he was right."
That also points to another element of Bob Gabric’s value to St. Ignatius and its athletic program. Bob was an outstanding mentor for other coaches. I was a fairly young man when I became the sophomore coach under Bob’s leadership. Working with him for 9 years, I learned a tremendous amount about coaching, which served me well in my 15 years as the girls’ and boys’ tennis coach.
One last point about Bob’s mentoring skills is made by Bob Kriz. “Working with Bob was a joy. He taught me more about the game then I ever knew and showed me how to have fun with it and the kids. Bob was always able to adapt on the fly and that is one of the reasons he was such a good coach.”
Finally there is Bob Gabric’s record as head basketball coach. While the exact number of wins and losses is lost to posterity, here is a brief summery of some of his team’s accomplishments:
4 league championships
2 IHSA Regional Championships
6 invitational tournament championships
7 tournament finishes in 2nd or 3rd place
2 times named WLS team of the week
4 times presented the Golden Basket Award
Bob, for those of you who knew you, you will never be out of our hearts and minds. God bless you.