From the editor
Coaches, they aren’t supposed to be human. Coaches are tough-skinned, resolute, strong-willed and determined cyborgs. They lose, brush it off like a wily piece of lint and then come right back to try again. They don’t sulk, whimper, or give up. The teary-eyed coach is almost always a happy coach, a coach watching his team celebrate a buzzer-beating victory, a state championship. The coach is supposed to have just two emotions-distress and delight. But coaches hurt, too, just like you and me. And when a loved-one passes away, the hurt is palpable.

Coaches coach these games sometimes as intensely as the players play them. (Which reminds me: Someone please get Fenwick boys basketball coach John Quinn a throwback uniform, a pair of Chuck Taylor high-tops and Kurt Rambis specs before he snags a bounce pass and pulls up for a jumper from his team’s bench. The kid wants to play!)

Two of our area coaches suffered losses of a serious kind within the same week recently, but both have had strong support systems to help get them through the difficult time.

The roles have been reversed for Ed Stritzel and his basketball team. The Trinity head coach is being coached by his team during the Class 3A state playoffs. Stritzel’s sister, Mary Cooney, died on Feb. 7 of a sudden heart attack. She was 44 years old, a mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend. Stritzel and his family were devastated-still are. But he’s getting by one day, one game at a time with help from his team.

“The Trinity family has been amazing,” said Stritzel. “It’s been tough dealing with the loss, but our kids at Trinity have made it easy for me.

“It’s like our kids are leading me through the tournament. I’ll never forget what they’ve done for me and my family.”

Fenwick girls basketball coach Dave Power spoke about his father last year after the Friars won the Class AA State Championship. He said, “My dad couldn’t make it to this game, but I know he’s very proud.”

The pride was two-fold that day. Dave’s daughter, Erin, started for that state championship squad and is currently playing for the University of Pennsylvania, a school she chose specifically for the opportunity to be near her grandfather, Al, who passed away at the age of 89, the same week Mary Cooney did.

Power’s players knew what their coach was going through. In the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs, the Friars pounded Proviso West 60-29 without their coach at the helm. They then toppled Wheaton North 78-43 for the regional title. Afterwards, they said they did it for their head coach.

Such sad news during the high school girls basketball playoffs. The crowds, the intensity, the pressure, the glory, and the heartache. Now toss in a different type of heartache, a pain that measures off the scales. To lose a game is trivial compared to this type of heartache, but then again, these are coaches.

Every game is important, as is every day.


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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...