Allen mulls over sticking around

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By BRAD SPENCER Sports Editor

Retiring may be on standby for Oak Park and River Forest head basketball coach Al Allen.

Allen, who announced before the start of last season that 2004-2005 would be his final year as head basketball coach at OPRF, declared last week he may indeed stay on as coach until he's ready to retire altogether from teaching.

The 53-year-old teacher and coach of the Huskies since 1987, who is currently in remission after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last June, said he enjoys coaching and would like to continue developing the program at OPRF until he decides to retire from teaching.

"When you're told you have cancer, your whole life flashes in front of you. I realized I love to coach basketball and to teach," said Allen, who has been teaching for 34 years. "If [new Athletic Director Barry Huitema] will have me, I will stay until I feel it is time to retire from teaching. I'll just walk away from both at the same time.

"Right now I have no personal life. I coach and I teach. I realized if I stopped doing that I probably wouldn't be happy."

Allen, who has produced a record of 295-160 since accepting the head coaching position at OPRF in 1987, fell under unfavorable scrutiny in 2000 when the Huskies finished 5-20 overall and 0-12 in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference. Since then, the program has climbed out of its losing slump, finishing 16-13 in 2002 and 24-4 last year.

"The only negative part [of this job] is some parents," said Allen, referring to a backlash from a few irate parents who claimed the hard disciplinarian has trouble attracting talented players to try out for the team. "The majority of the parents appreciate what you do and are grateful and would jump off a cliff for you. I don't want the negative ones to get to me."

Under Allen's direction, the Huskies have won three regional titles ('91-'92, '92-'93, and 2003-2004). The team's last downstate appearance was in 1976, under Tom Meyer, when they finished third in the state.  

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