Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Remembering Bob Gabric

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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Reminiscence #92: About Alumni

I don’t find a lot of advantages to getting “old”, but an advantage to being retired is that, when I want to sit down in the middle of the afternoon and rest, I can.   Such was the case this past Friday.  I sat back and turned on the TV.  The Ellen DeGeneres Show was on, and just as the picture came on, Ellen introduced her guest, Gina Rodriguez.
  Gina is an Emmy Award winning actress for her portrayal as the title character in the TV series “Jane, the Virgin”, but, from my standpoint, more importantly, she is an Ignatius graduate from the class of 2002.
There are many Ignatius grads who have become very successful in their chosen field, but I get a kick out of seeing one of our grads achieve a level of “celebrity”.  When Vyto Ruginis (’74) makes an appearance on NCIS Los Angeles or Andre Braugher (’80) appears on “Brooklyn 99”, it makes me smile.   Both Casey Siemaszko (’79) and his sister, Nina, have continued their acting careers.   My wife and I still enjoy watching reruns of The Hallmark Channel’s Mystery Woman in which Nina is the prettiest district attorney in the world.
There’s always a danger in naming some grads who are successful working in a particular field, and missing others.  The names listed above are the ones I know and remember.  I apologize to any in the entertainment field that I have missed, and if I have, I’d like to hear about your career.
Speaking of the class of 2002, this Saturday, the classes of 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007 will have their reunions.  I will try to be there and, as always, I look forward to seeing any of you that I taught and/or coached in tennis.  I will have to say, though, be kind.  My memory isn’t what it once was, and you probably don’t look exactly like you did the day that you graduated.
Finally, still speaking of alumni, next Monday, May 1st is Frank Raispis’ 90th birthday.  If you are an alumnus from the mid-‘50’s to around 2000, I’m sure that you remember Mr. Raispis leading the students in the gym, in a rousing version of  “Hail, Ignatius”.  He loves getting greeting cards from former students and colleagues, and with some help, he has them hung on his wall. If you are interested in sending him a greeting, his address is:
Frank Raispis
Bridgeway Village
111 E. Washington
Bensenville, IL 60106

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reflection #91: Ramblings of an old man

            I admit that this is an over-simplification, but I find there to be an interesting triad to “getting up there in age”.  (Trust me when I tell you that I have the credentials.  I retired 13 years ago, and it wasn’t an early retirement.)   First, we tend to love reminiscing, particularly if we can find a grandchild willing to listen.  “Yes, Tricia, when I was your age, and we made a phone call, we’d pick up the receiver and a lady at the other end would ask what number we were calling, and what our number was.” 
            The second element is being critical of the “modern” ways. “Why, in my day,… blah, blah, blah.  How can kids sign a check, if they don’t know cursive writing?”
            Finally, there is a tendency to think that things will always be as they are now.   It is that last point that prompted this reminiscence about Ignatius in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.   Recently I was cleaning my closet and I came across a dozen neckties that I wore as a teacher.  I had saved them because I will always need neckties.  After all, the world never changes.   Now I realize that I only need one or two for “state” occasions, so I asked my son, a son-in-law and a grandson, all of whom are in the “business world” if they’d wanted any of them.  No, they don’t wear neckties at work.  What?  What’s happening to the world?
This brings me back to Ignatius.  When I started teaching in 1961, it was a requirement that the boys all wore neckties and sport coats.  I did a little bit of research…looking in old yearbooks…and found that, through the ‘60’s, that rule was in tact, but by the mid-‘70’s, the boys were no longer wearing them.  
                        Another change: A few days ago, as I walked through the halls of the school, I was startled. My first year teaching at 1076 was the first year that the students passed from classroom to classroom to change classes.  The students weren’t allowed to talk during the passing, and the teachers were instructed to stand at our doors to enforce that rule.  Prior to that, the students stayed and the teachers went from room to room.  
            This past Tuesday, students were lining the halls, sitting on benches, sitting on chairs and sitting on the floor…and it was during a class period, and as far as I could tell, things were fine.  Some of the students were talking; others were working on their laptops.    When I passed open classroom doors, there were students sitting at their desks, busily “typing” (is it still called that?) or reading. 
This is NOT a criticism.  It is a simple observation.  Ignatius is still a great school, but the world is a different place now.  There is scant evidence that things are worse than in the “old days”, as my contemporaries are inclined, and/or choose, to believe.  “Why! In my day, those kids would have been hit, jugged, expelled or all three.”

One last observation about how things “use to be”.   Through most of the ‘60’s, no matter what you academic strengths or weaknesses, you were placed in a class with all of the students that scored in the same general range on the entrance exam.  Strong in math, but weak in reading?  You might be placed in the same class as the student who had opposite strengths but had the same overall entrance exam score…and that might last all four years.  Thank heavens, that has been rectified.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Reflection #90: The Basketball Coaches

                  At the Hall-of-Fame Induction this past September, I was introduced to Matt Monroe, the new varsity basketball coach at St. Ignatius. I wish Matt nothing but the greatest success, and, judging  from what I read in his bio on the Ignatius website,  he is destined to be successful.  He is stepping into the shadow of the coaching icon, Rich Kehoe.  This chance meeting with Matt made me think about our athletic program in general and particularly the basketball program, during my first two decades at Ignatius.
                  With the busy holiday season approaching, the idea of writing an article about those times was put on the back burner until yesterday…New Years Day to be precise… when I received a phone call from Jeffery Carter, a former outstanding Ignatius basketball player from the class of ’76, and Coach Bob Gabric, our head b-ball coach from ’68 to ’79.                 
                  I started my teaching and coaching career in September of 1961.  From 1960 until 1970, we had five different head basketball coaches.  For those of you of a certain age, and care to reminisce, or those of you who are younger but want to impress your dads and grandfathers with your knowledge, they were:
                  1960 to 1963 Ralph Hinger
                  1963 to 1964 George Lux
                  1964 to 1967 Jim Enright
                  1967 to 1968 Tom O’Connor
                  1968 to 1979 Bob Gabric
                  By contrast, since 1979 there have only been three different coaches:   Rich Kehoe (1979 to 1986), Paul Pryma(1986 to 1992), John Tracy(1992 to 2003)
Then Kehoe returned in 2003 until he retired last year.

                  My involvement with Wolfpack basketball program didn’t begin until 1968, when I became the sophomore coach.  Officially, I was Bob Gabric’s assistant, but in reality, I wasn’t.  From 1968 to 1976, Bob was the varsity coach, I was the sophomore coach and Ron Cygan (class of ’62) was the freshmen coach.  That was it.  There were three coaches for the entire program.   In reading the Ignatius website description about the present-day basketball program, I saw that there are 6 coaches.   That’s great!
                  As an aside, from the time when Bob Gabric came to Ignatius in 1964, and we coached baseball together, he has been one of my best friends and a mentor.  I learned much about coaching and about life from Bob for which I will always be grateful.  I want to add that Jim Luzzi, ’65, our first and longtime soccer coach, has also expressed his admiration and appreciation for the lessons that Rich Kehoe has taught him.  Jim said that he had learned a great deal about organizing  practices and game plans from Rich.  Since Luzzi is one of the most organized men I have ever known, that is high praise indeed. 
                  There is a great deal more that can be said about the changes in the athletic program since the ‘70’s.  Among them the football program was eliminated (for 40 years), there were several league changes, and a new gym was built, but that’s enough for now.   Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reflection #89: Yesterday meets Today

            Every evening at midnight, yesterday and today bump into each other, but, at Saint Ignatius over the last month-and-a-half, on three separate occasions, yesterday and today actually over lapped.  I refer to reunions.   
             In mid-September, the 50-year reunion of the class of ’66 was held.  The class of ’66 has a special place in my memory because they were the members of the freshman football team of 1962.  I was their coach, but on a fateful day in March, the school’s president, Fr. Robert Koch, S.J., announced that St. Ignatius was dropping football and dropping out of the Catholic League.  Don Lucas, one of the varsity’s assistant coaches, was instrumental in starting the baseball team that spring, and, with his encouragement, I became the frosh-soph baseball coach.  Several of the football players made the transition to the upstart hardball program.  I must admit that, meeting men that I coached when they were freshmen and are now eligible for social security, is a little unnerving, but it was great to learn what they had done with their lives.  
Then on September 30, six individuals, all alumni, and the 1991 Women’s Basketball Team, were inducted into the St. Ignatius Athletic Hall-of-Fame.  Strictly speaking, that’s not  officially a reunion, but for all intents and purposes, it is the same, especially when all of the inductees are alumni.   This years inductees were:
 Donald Mnichowicz, ’57(football),   Dr. Paul Poskozim, ‘57(tennis), Arthur Reliford Jr. ’92 (basketball),   Patricia Ryan, ‘95(volleyball), and the entire 1991 Women’s Basketball Team, several of whom I was fortunate enough to coach in tennis.
Finally, two inductees in the list are close friends of mine and both were inducted because of their coaching careers.  They are Jim Luzzi, class of ’65, who was the first and only head soccer coach at SICP from 1970 to 2014, and tennis coach Rychelle (Kitty) Hooper, ’87.   As a senior, she was the captain of the tennis team, and, at her graduation, was named Ignatian of the Year, an honor given by the vote of the senior class.   
 Last but not least, in mid-October, the 16th to be exact, the reunions for the classes of  ’86, ‘81, ’76 and ’71 were held.   Again, it was my pleasure to meet up with alumni I had coached and/or taught.  I admit that, at this point in my life, my memory isn’t as sharp as I would like it to be, but then, it never was.   I am more likely to remember former athletes better than math students because there is an aspect to athletics that isn’t as common in the regular classroom setting.  It is emotion.
 Finally, how about the Wolfpack Football Team?  Going into the playoff game, their record was 7 wins and 3 loses.   Looking back to the fall of 1962, that record is magnificent. Granted, they lost to Br. Rice by a sizeable margin, and while the present-day players and coaches likely aren’t satisfied with their record, I am proud of how far we’ve progressed.