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After 28 years as the Fenwick boys basketball head coach, John Quinn was notified a week ago that he would not be retained to coach next season. Athletic Director Scott Thies informed Fenwick players of Quinn's firing in a meeting on Wednesday.
"I was baffled and stunned," said Quinn in regards to how he felt when he was told of the coaching change by Fenwick senior administrators on Friday, March 8. "The players were mystified, too. I really feel for all of my fellow [Fenwick] coaches — guys like Cory Foster, Chris Smolak, Dennis Zelasko, Jimmy Reardon and Mike Poleski among others.
"Our coaching was a collaborative effort, and we shared the same mission. Our mission, which was spelled out to us by the school, is to be kid-centered, inclusive and competitive. I felt we accomplished those objectives this season."
Thies would not comment for this story, instead referring to the school's official press release. The school released the following statement: "Fenwick High School has decided to make a change in its basketball program. As a result, John Quinn will no longer be the head basketball coach. He will, however, continue his duties as a valued member of the Fenwick faculty.
"John has served has head coach for Fenwick basketball for 28 years since 1985. He has made many contributions to the program and we thank him for his many years of dedication and service to the Fenwick basketball program."
Thies, who played for Quinn at Fenwick, added via e-mail, "When the time comes for me to talk about our decisions moving forward, I will."
Quinn's unexpected firing drops the curtain on a highly decorated coaching career with the Friars. Under the guidance of Quinn, who replaced coach Will Rey in June of 1985, the Friars have won seven Chicago Catholic League titles, 11 regional titles and two sectional titles. In 1998, Fenwick went 28-3 (school record for wins) en route to a 76-64 loss to Maine West in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. NBA veteran Corey Maggette, currently a forward on the Detroit Pistons, excelled as a McDonald's All-American in 1998 while playing for Quinn.
"Fenwick really helped me mature as a person," Maggette said in an interview with Wednesday Journal when he played for the Los Angeles Clippers years ago, "and coach Quinn played a huge role in helping me develop as a person and basketball player. He's a great coach and a great guy."
Other notable awards for Quinn include: Chicago Catholic League Coach of the Year (four times), Illinois Basketball Coaches' Association District Coach of the Year (five times) along with inductions into the Catholic League Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010.
Quinn's impact within the Fenwick community and beyond transcends awards and winning percentages.
"It's never been just about basketball; it's about relationships," Quinn said. "Whether it's my players, fellow coaches or people within the Fenwick community, I've had the opportunity to spend time with some wonderful people.
"[The firing] is not a tragedy, it's a setback. Several of my players have dropped by my classroom to offer their support."
Support for Quinn has come in waves over the last few trying days.
"John should be proud of the great accomplishments his program had during his time as coach," said Riverside-Brookfield coach Tom McCloskey. "John was always first class when it came to recruiting and doing things the right way."
Legendary coach Johnny Bach, who joined Quinn's staff the last few seasons as a volunteer coach, after a long bench career highlighted by a stint on Phil Jackson's staff during the Chicago Bulls' first three-peat title run, took the news hard.
"I would say Fenwick lost a fine coach," Bach said. "He is a true 'Fenwick' man and his impact goes well beyond X's and O's. He has been a wonderful coach, teacher and role model, touching so many lives."
In one notable respect, the news of Quinn's dismissal even reverberated on a state-level drawing the ire of Gov. Pat Quinn, John Quinn's older brother. Pat and John, along with their brother Tom all attended Fenwick High School.
According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Gov. Quinn made the following remarks about his brother yesterday at the state capitol. "He's a kind and gentle man who understands the importance of sportsmanship, and I feel that my high school has lost its soul. It's a devastating blow to my brother, John, and I think the administration there has let down the students, the alumni and shame on them. John is a coach who understands that the most important part of being a coach in a high school is to educate those who are under your command."
Governor Quinn also praised his brother John for being an outstanding Social Studies teacher who has won the Golden Apple teaching award (1992) as well as becoming a Hall of Fame coach with well over 450 career victories.
"I feel truly blessed to have such wonderful friends and colleagues," said the head coach. "My phone has not stopped ringing the last few days, and the support from so many people means the world to me."