An alumnus reflects on the Friars’ improbable basketball championship 54 seasons ago.
I’ve traveled many ‘roads’ after leaving Fenwick, but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned as a member of the basketball team and particularly the 1966 team that won the Chicago Catholic League title that year – against significant odds.
We won the title in March of ’66; one of many championships won by Fenwick teams throughout its long history. But my own sense as a student of that history is that few of these teams had as amazing and improbable road to a title as we had, and it is that story that I’d like to share and use to reinforce the idea that, although the title was great, it was the ‘lessons learned’ along the way that were more lasting and more important.
As we began the 1965-66-basketball season, we knew we had a well-regarded coach in Bill Shay, but it had been almost 15 years since Fenwick had won a Catholic League Senior (over 5’ 9” players) basketball championship. In fact, the previous season, Fenwick’s Senior team finished at .500 in league play, out of the playoffs, and were maddeningly inconsistent – beating a contender one night and getting blown out another. To be honest, there was cautious optimism at best as we opened the season led by 6’6” senior center Dennis Bresnahan (St. Bernadine – Oak Park), the lone starter from the previous year and who would be joined by three talented underclassmen, including junior forward Joe Grill (Divine Infant – Westchester), junior guard/forward Steve Flanagan (Ascension – Oak Park), and junior guard John Sanderlin (St. Luke – River Forest), who had led their Frosh-Soph team coached by Jerry Hughes to a 20-0 record the year before. Coach Shay knew he might have something special in this young, untested team, but it was mostly a hope.
With Grill and Flanagan, both starting football players, not joining the basketball team until late November, things started out surprisingly rough, losing seven of our first 10 league games, albeit four by three points or less. As ‘ninth man’ on a team that usually played just seven players, my role was to scrimmage against the starters in practice and help prepare them for the games. I knew Grill, Flanagan and Sanderlin from our grammar-school days, and each one was a winner – rarely losing in anything. Both Sanderlin and Flanagan were in the so-called ‘A’ group academically and their basketball ‘IQs’ were just as impressive. Furthermore, even in scrimmages they played to win. I would say the biggest thing that these guys brought to the team was their deep-rooted will to win, a trait perhaps even more important than raw talent. And win we would.
“I always thought that the largest and one of the most impactful classrooms at Fenwick back in the day was the gym – today’s Lawless Gym.”Mike Shields ’67
The Fenwick aura of excellence
To be a student at Fenwick in the mid-60s was to be surrounded by greatness in one’s teachers and coaches. Tony Lawless, our legendary Athletic Director, had joined Fenwick when it opened in 1929 out of Loyola University and an illustrious basketball career there. He hired swimming coach Dan O’Brien (Class of 1934), whose teams would win 28 straight Catholic League titles; Lawless himself would coach the football teams, which over his 25 years (1932-57) would compile a Rockne-like record of 172-40-6 and a winning percentage of .803. In those years, Fenwick’s football teams would win 14 division titles, five Catholic League titles and three City Championships. In 1950, Lawless selected Bill Shay, another highly successful coach, to lead Fenwick’s basketball teams. I would say Lawless, O’Brien and Shay, all successful intelligent coaches, not only believed in excellence but were very (very) serious guys who helped develop the likes of 1953 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner (Fenwick ’50) at Notre Dame [who also played basketball and ran track in high school], 1964 Olympic Diving Gold Medalist Ken Sitzberger (Fenwick ’63) and legions of other great Fenwick athletes.
As Athletic Director, Lawless had also brilliantly selected 24-year old John Jardine as football coach, and Jardine proceeded to a 45-6-1 record over five years (1959-63) and an epic 40-0 Prep Bowl victory in 1962 over Schurz in front of 91,000 fans at Soldier Field. That type of serious winning ethos was palpable and expected – academically and athletically. Fenwick teams didn’t always win but they all fought very hard to win and, as our 1966 basketball team continued its journey, we all had imbibed the Fenwick ethos of excellence and high expectations. How could we not?
Bill Shay knew we could be great. We weren’t totally sure about that after our string of early season losses but, as the season wore on, our team – led by the steady and outstanding play of our Bresnahan (captain) and the development of the new three underclassmen starters – started to gel. Our practices were grueling, and Coach Shay brought the entire team, starters and non-starters alike, together us as a winning team with his experienced combination of toughness and teaching. As an aside, there were many nights after a long practice when several of us, including Sanderlin, would stand in the winter cold at the corner at East Ave. and Madison St. to catch a late West Town bus home. We were all tired, but were growing as a team and we began to win. Significantly, at a certain point, I think the winning attitudes of Grill, Flanagan and Sanderlin really kicked in and created a powerful dynamic of confidence, mental toughness and winning. They knew they were winners and were not going to settle for anything less. Adding to the new dynamic was the amazing development of two young (and tall) sophomores, 6’ 4” Jim Martinkus and 6’ 8” Bob Fittin, who Coach Shay was beginning to gradually work into the line-up: a smart move as they would both play pivotal roles in key games ahead. Our team finished strong with four victories in our last five league games and tied for 2nd place with archrival Loyola in the North Section. So, to get into the four-team Catholic League playoff, we had to beat Loyola, to whom we had lost twice during the season.
The run begins
On the night of March 6th, Fenwick met Loyola at DePaul University’s Alumni Hall with its sunken court (aka ‘basketball pit’) and seating for about 5,000 on the DePaul campus. With Bresnahan and Grill combining for 32 points, Fenwick rolled to a 59-46 victory. We were not surprised as we expected the victory. Now that we were in the league playoffs, next up for us on Saturday night would be St. Rita led by their 6’8” All-American center George Janky, We were wary but still confident. Frankly, we were the only ones who were confident we could beat St. Rita, particularly as we had also lost to them twice in the regular season.
That Saturday night, the entire Fenwick student body showed up and Alumni Hall was jam-packed. I was on the bench with a front-row seat, and the cheering was so loud at times that we could not hear Coach Shay in the huddle. Our team though was so cohesive by then that instincts took over – our guys were determined to beat St. Rita, who frankly did not show us much respect. That would change as the game wore on, and it was clear that Fenwick was ‘in the game’ – and could even win it! After four intense quarters of play, regulation time ended with the score tied 60-60. It was a bit surreal, to be honest. In overtime, neither team scored until the very end; with St. Rita holding the ball for the final shot, guard Sanderlin stole the ball and passed it to Bresnahan, who was fouled. With just four second left, Bresnahan sunk both free throws and Fenwick had won another improbable victory 62-60. Bedlam reigned! Thirty minutes after the game though, Coach Shay brought us ‘back to earth’ and reminded us that we ‘had not won anything yet’ – the ‘only thing’ we did was earn the right to play powerful defending City Champ Mt. Carmel for the Championship. We were not favored.
So on Wednesday night March 16th, 1966, DePaul’s Alumni Hall was packed again with nearly 5,000 fans, including local celebrities such as DePaul Coach Ray Meyer. The game, with a tipoff at 8:30 p.m., was broadcast in prime time across the Chicago area on the new UHF TV channel WFLD. It was ‘a spectacle’ – even bigger then the St. Rita game. Mt. Carmel brought a record of 27-2 into the game while Fenwick’s was 15-11 and we had already lost two early-season games to the Caravan. As much of an underdog as we were on paper, though, I did not feel like an ‘underdog’ and neither did my teammates. Probably the biggest challenge we had was to stay focused and play our game and not get swept up in the spectacle of it all. We seemed to have reached a level at which we felt we could beat anyone. Coach Shay, as always, calmly went over the game plan before the game: shut down All-State guard Greg Carney (he scored just 2 points in the first half), prevent their big All-Chicago center Dave Lewis from getting the ball, and play disciplined offense ourselves with smart shot selections. In the end, although Mt. Carmel came close a few times in the 2nd half, we won the game 62-52, with 32 of those points coming on free throws, particularly impressive in such a pressure-packed atmosphere. This was Fenwick’s first Catholic League Senior Basketball title since 1950 – a truly amazing and historic feat.
Needless to say, euphoria reigned and the team headed back to Fenwick after the game. We probably arrived at the school near midnight as March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, began. Our bus was greeted in the school parking lot by an epic mob of our fellow students with the festivities continuing in the gym, where so much of our preparation had happened, including lots of ‘blood and sweat’ being spent. Coach Shay introduced each player and student manager on the team, briefly mentioning the person’s contributions, to wild cheering. This was truly a special night to celebrate the coveted Championship and the team effort behind it – players, coaches, students, staff and alumni. One Fenwick!
Back in 1966, the Catholic League Champ played the Pubic League Champ for the City Championship. It was a big deal. As Catholic League champs we would play the Marshall Commandos and their fabulous All-State forward Richard Bradshaw, who had completed an undefeated Public League season before being upset in the State Super-Sectional game by New Trier. Marshall, with its rich basketball history, was pointing to a victory over Fenwick for ‘redemption.’ The game was played on March 27th at the International Amphitheater with TV coverage again by WFLD. Our team came out ready to play, dominating the first half, but leading only 28-27 at halftime. Marshall surged in the second half and won the game 62-56 for the City Championship. One positive that came out of this loss was that two of the Fenwick players that day, sophomores Martinkus and Fittin, would gain invaluable experience from it and just two years later would lead a 25-4 Fenwick team, still coached by Bill Shay, to another Catholic League Championship and then go on to beat the Public League Champ Crane Tech 56-48 for the City Championship!
This season and experience in 1966 taught us much. We certainly learned a great deal academically in the classroom from our Dominican and lay teachers, but to be part of this championship team taught me ‘even more,’ which I carried forward throughout my life and professional career. These early lessons from that season’s experience, which I have in fact used and am sill adding to many years later, might be summarized for me (in no particular order after the first one listed) as follows:
- Win or lose, striving for excellence elevates the team and the individuals.
- Most success comes from a team effort, being ‘One,’ not just from one ‘star’.
- One never knows where the final ‘missing piece’ of a winning team will come from; often the person is ‘on the outside’ and ‘not seen’ at first.
- Sometimes it takes time for a great team to gel (we started 3-7 in 1966).
- Smart, intelligent coaching, including being creative and trying new approaches when necessary are absolutely essential to winning, when playing ‘dynamic games’.
- A team made up of players with a winning attitude, who really want to win, are at a competitive advantage to an ‘all-star’ team (with ‘all star’ resumes) that just show up.
- Playing hard and with focus at all times is essential to winning.
- The pain of losing is not ‘the end of the world’ – ‘pain’ can motivate and teach a team, which wants to be great, where and how to get better.
- The little things, practiced over and over, count (like making 20 pressure-packed free throws in the St. Rita game and 32 free throws in the Mt. Carmel game).
- Positive passion and emotion are really helpful to give a person or a team that extra push when their energy level is running low (Bill Shay was a ‘positive’ coach and our Fenwick student body during the 1966 playoffs was very loud and very positive).
April 25, 2019
The former LaGrange Park resident and NFL ‘sack tasker’ is Fenwick’s newest inductee into the Chicago Catholic League Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
By Mark Vruno
Fenwick Fact: Highly acclaimed Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck ’69 is the only Friars’ alumnus with three Super Bowl rings from the National Football League (NFL). Teerlinck knows how to creatively apply pressure — in a football context, that is.
Teaching elite athletes the proper techniques needed to effectively rush the passer is his specialty, and the coach excelled at the collegiate and highest professional level. Teerlinck has coached in 32 NFL playoff games, including six AFC Championship Games and four Super Bowls.
He is one of only 23 coaches to win a Super Bowl with more than one team: two back to back with the Denver Broncos (1997 and 1998) in the John Elway era and one with the Indianapolis Colts (2006) in the Peyton Manning era. (“Sorry, Bears fans,” jokes Teerlinck, whose family moved when he was eight years old from upstate New York to suburban LaGrange Park, IL.)
In recognition of his sideline accomplishments, this evening the Chicago Catholic League (CCL) will induct Teerlinck, its native son, into the 2019 Coaches Association HALL OF FAME class. Many football observers refer to Coach “Link” as the GOAT: the greatest defensive line coach of all time. The “John Teerlinck Award” is given annually to the best defensive line coach in the NFL.
“Coach Teerlinck has coached many former teammates of mine, and we have friends in common from throughout our professional careers,” says Gene Nudo, Fenwick’s present Head Coach, who was a coach and executive in the Arena Football League before joining the Friars in 2012. “It surprised me to learn that this great coach was an alum of Fenwick. He, like so many others, has done the ‘Shield’ proud with his many professional achievements,” which is what led Nudo to nominate Teerlinck for the CCL HOF honor.
When he played defensive line for Fenwick in the 1967 and ’68 seasons, the Fighting Friars’ varsity went a combined 10-5. After a 7-2 junior campaign, a 3-5 record as a senior was disappointing. The defensive unit gave up a respectable 15.5 points per game (ppg) in the autumn of 1968. However, an anemic offense could muster only nine touchdowns all year for a paltry average of 7.25 ppg. Teerlinck was an All-Conference selection and went on to become an All-American for the Western Illinois University (Macomb, IL) Leathernecks. “We used to get New York Giants games at Western and I’d watch No. 89, Fred Dryer, and copy his moves,” Teerlinck told Chicago Tribune writer Don Pierson in a 1992 article.
A member of Western Illinois University’s Hall of Fame (inducted in 2000), Teerlinck was a team co-captain and defensive MVP as a senior in 1973. He was the first WIU player ever to record four sacks in a single game and still remains one of only four Leathernecks to ever accomplish that feat.
Teaching the Art of the Sack
In 1974 he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers (fifth round, 101st overall pick) and started as a rookie. Teerlinck played four seasons, on the other side of ball from an offense led by future Pro Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts, until a severe knee injury led to his early retirement as a player. “When I played for the Chargers, I’d get updates on Fenwick and Chicago three to four times a year from referee Jerry Markbreit, who coached in the Catholic League,” Teerlinck said. (Markbreit is a fellow CCL Hall of Famer.)
Some of football’s best quarterbacks feared many of the defensive linemen who trained under Teerlinck’s tutelage during nearly four decades spent coaching college and pro football. With four pro teams – the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Broncos and Colts — his players either set the record or came in second in total sacks.
Coach Teerlinck, who now is retired and recently celebrated his 68th birthday, stands 6’5” but many of his star speed rushers over the years were not quite as tall (see below). He coached 31 Pro Bowl (All-Star) players, including four defensive MVPs:
Michael Dean Perry, AFC Defensive Player of the Year (’89), Cleveland Browns. Out of Clemson, the Fridge’s younger, “little” brother, who is 6’1” and weighed 285 pounds, tallied 61 career sacks.
Chris Doleman, NFC Defensive POY (’92), Minnesota Vikings. At 6’5” 290 lbs., he was a tall one. Doleman played collegiately at Pittsburgh, then registered 150.5 sacks during his NFL career.
John Randle, Minnesota Vikings; NFL sack leader in ’97; 137.5 career sacks. Randle stood only 6’1” and struggled to get his weight up to 275 lbs. College(s): Trinity Valley Community College and Texas A&M University – Kingsville (Div. II).
Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts; 125.5 career sacks and a “patented” spin move. At 6’1” 270 lbs., he sprinted 120 feet in 4.48 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2002. The freakish athlete also could leap up to 40 inches vertically. College: Syracuse. (Freeney was a four-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, baseball and soccer!)
During his tenure, Teerlinck coached seven players (Bubba Baker, Doleman, Freeney, Kevin Greene, Robert Mathis, Randle and Neil Smith) to reach 100 career sacks: the ultimate benchmark for a defensive lineman. Both Doleman and Randle have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF). Teerlinck became only the ninth assistant coach selected to present a player at a HOF induction when he presented Randle in 2010.
His players remember their coach as an unconventional teacher who believed in their abilities and who also helped to motivate them to reach their potential. “John Teerlinck is kind of like Mr. Miyagi [the character in the ‘Karate Kid’ movies],” John Randle has said. “He’s very unorthodox: a different breed; rough around the edges. He tells you things that are funny, but they register if you just listen. That’s why he’s the guru.”
Here’s how Randle began his HOF acceptance speech in 2010: “First of all, I want to thank John Teerlinck for presenting me, motivating me, focusing me on the game that I love. I also want to say, John, thank you for saying I could excel and play in the National Football League, even though I wasn’t drafted, didn’t play for a major school. Also thank you for showing me what sometimes I didn’t see in myself.”
A Proud Friar
Before coaching in college and the pros, however, Teerlinck was just proud to be a Fenwick Friar. “Going to Fenwick was a big deal,” he recalled last week from his home in Indiana. Literally thousands of boys would take the admissions test in those days, he said. “Only three of nine [boys] from my school got in,” remembers the straight-A student from St. Louise de Marillac. “About 150 guys would try out for football in those days.” Youthful John is pictured among the 47 new Friars in his freshman Blackfriars yearbook (1965-66) photograph. (The team finished 3-2-1.)
The adjective resourceful doesn’t even begin to describe Xonhane Medina, an ambitious teenager who excels in the classroom and in the pool as a girls’ water polo player.
By Mark Vruno
Most 16-year-olds can’t pronounce the medical term cardiothoracic, let alone know what is means. But last summer, Fenwick student Xonhane Medina ’20 — now a junior — spent two weeks in Northern California as a cardiothoracic intern at Stanford University. (For the record, cardiothoracic surgery is the field of medicine involved in surgical treatment of organs inside the thorax — generally treatment of conditions of the heart and lungs.)
Fenwick Girls’ water polo head coach Jack Wagner has a hard enough time pronouncing Medina’s first name. He affectionately calls her “Shawn.” And anyone who knows the gruff exterior of Wagner knows that Jack doesn’t brag. Here he was, however, bragging about Xonhane – not about her MCAC All-Conference status as a sophomore last season (his Friars took second in state, by the way). He was boasting about this phenomenal internship she orchestrated.
“This kid, she set up her own funding!” he exclaimed.
Due in part to being a huge fan of the “Grey’s Anatomy” TV series when she was younger, Ms. Medina was interested in doing some type of a medical-related internship. She began her search online. Her cousin’s fiancée is a pediatric surgeon at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, so Stanford was on her proverbial radar. A similar opportunity at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, also had captured her attention.
“I knew they were a reach,” Ms. Medina admits. For one thing, Xonhane knew her family could not afford the $6,500 price tag. Yet, as the late advertising guru Leo Burnett once said: “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” So, Xonhane reached high.
Not knowing how to begin the process, she reached out to Paul Morgan, a director at the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, who became her educational sponsor. Medina is one of the Fenwick students receiving financial aid from the Murphy organization, which for 29 years has been providing high school scholarship assistance and educational support to Chicago students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
She reached higher, next asking for letters of recommendation from Fenwick teachers, including Andy Arellano (speech) and Shana Wang (English) as well as, of course, Wagner, her coach. In early March she received her letter of acceptance. Subsequently, she received $4,000 from the Oak Park-based Farther Foundation. She put that money toward the $3,000 housing fee and air fare. She had enough money left over to buy some Stanford sweaters. “That was literally the only thing I bought,” reveals Medina, who, when she’s not doing homework or working out in the basement pool at Fenwick, works weekends as a cashier downtown at Navy Pier.
The Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center Stanford Summer Internship is designed to educate high school and pre-medical students considering careers in science, medicine and public health in basic and advanced cardiovascular anatomy and physiology as well as medical and surgical techniques that will be used in pre-medical and medical school. In 2018 the two-week experience ran from June 24 – July 7.
The typical morning (9:30 a.m. – 12 noon) was dominated by lectures, according to Medina. Anatomy of the entire body was led by a pair of third-year medical students. Then, discussions on different types of surgeries were led by senior scientist Paul A. Chang, co-founder of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center. She learned that there are two main heart surgeries: 1) valve replacements and 2) coronary artery bypass grafts.
After lunch came four full hours of hands-on, laboratory time. “This was my favorite thing,” Xonhane offers, enthusiastically. Each day, she and her lab partner received a new pig heart on which to slice and clamp. They learned how to use several cardiovascular, surgical instruments, such as:
- forceps: a pair of pincers or tweezers used in surgery or in a laboratory.
- Debakey forceps: a type of atraumatic tissue forceps used in vascular procedures to avoid tissue damage during manipulation. (They are typically large, and have a distinct coarsely ribbed grip panel, as opposed to the finer ribbing on most other tissue forceps.)
- Gerald Tissue Forceps: a light- to intermediate-weight instrument with very narrow tips specifically used to handle delicate tissue. They are often used in cardiothoracic procedures. About seven inches in length with serrated tips, Geralds feature 1 x 2 teeth to securely grasp the tissue, but also have a stop peg to prevent an overly harsh grasp that may crush the tissue.
- Mayo: Straight-bladed Mayo scissorsare designed for cutting body tissues near the surface of a wound.
- aortic cross-clamps: surgical instruments used in cardiac surgery to clamp the aorta and separate the systemic circulation from the outflow of the heart.
She and her partner even had to apply sutures or stitches to aorta-dissected hearts. “We had competitions [with other interns] to see who could stitch the fastest,” Medina reports. “We also competed to see how fast we could ligate six [blood] vessels on the aorta.” The athlete in Xonhane liked the contests, but the fierce competitor is quick to point out that she came to Fenwick for academics — not for water polo.
The young Assistant State’s Attorney stood at the center of “The Trial of the Century” in the mid-1960s — as the chief prosecutor of mass-murderer Richard Speck.
By Mark Vruno
As the Fenwick Bar Association celebrates its the 20th Annual Accipter Award Luncheon on May 18th, we remember 2006 recipient William Martin, who passed away last July at the age of 80, following a long battle with cancer.
During a legal career that spanned more than 50 years, Bill Martin lawyered — later as a defense attorney — and taught the law. After serving as editor of The Wick student newspaper and graduating from Fenwick in 1954, Martin attended Loyola University Chicago and its law school, where he was voted the outstanding student. He founded and was editor of the Loyola Law Times, a Journal of Opinion.
Until his death last year, the native Oak Parker (St. Giles) was a private practitioner specializing in attorney ethics and criminal law. He is, however, known best for putting a monster behind bars. The murderer’s name was Richard Speck, who went on a killing spree on Chicago’s southeast side the hot night of July 14, 1966.
An Assistant State’s Attorney at the time, the then 29-year-old Billy Martin had been selected from a pool of more than 30 criminal court prosecutors, many much older and with far more felony trial experience, according to an article in the spring 2018 edition of the Journal of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Despite his relative youth, Martin had earned the respect of Cook County State’s Attorney Dan Ward and his chief assistants, including John Stamos.
Twenty-five years later, Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times, “In a way, it was the end of innocence. In this case, eight women asleep in a middle-class, crime-free, virtually suburban neighborhood were subject to random violence from a killer who basically came out of the night.” Reflecting in a 2016 interview with the Wednesday Journal, he added, “By committing the first random mass murder in 20th-century America, Richard Speck opened the floodgates to a tragic phenomenon that haunts us today.”
Martin believed that Speck was evil incarnate. The 24-year-old ex-convict from Texas stabbed or strangled (and, in one case, raped) the female nursing students. While in hiding two days after the grisly murders, Speck tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists with a broken wine bottle. But once he was locked up in Statesville Correctional Center, Illinois’ maximum-security prison near Joliet, the human monster never showed any remorse for the bloody, heinous acts he committed.
There was one person who survived that horrible night: 85-pound student nurse Corazon Amurao. Originally from the Philippines, Ms. Amurao hid, terrified, under a bunk bed during the five-hour killing rampage. One by one, her nursing school classmates were ruthlessly slain by the madman. At dawn, in shock, she crawled through the carnage to the townhouse balcony. For 20 minutes she screamed, “Oh my God, they are all dead!”
How the fictitious ‘school’ came to be – even though it never was a real college.
By Mark Vruno
The more I learn about Maguire University, the more my stomach hurts from laughing. It is difficult not to laugh, or at least smile and smirk a little. I first caught wind of Maguire U last winter in the Faculty Cafeteria at Fenwick, sitting and chewing the proverbial fat with John Quinn ’76, Fenwick alumnus, longtime social studies teacher and Catholic League Hall of Fame basketball coach.
The conversation turned to the late, great John Lattner, who had passed away about a year earlier. Mr. Quinn was laughing, almost snorting, between bites: “Did you ever hear about Maguire University?” he chuckled, nearly choking. No, I had never heard of that school, I said, wondering what the heck was so funny. Little did I know!
It is good that Quinn is one of Fenwick’s unofficial school historians because, as it turns out, there is nothing official about Maguire U. The infamous university was “created” 55 years ago in a semi-respectable Madison Street establishment in nearby Forest Park called, what else: Maguire’s. With the annual March Madness basketball craze upon us, this is how the story goes …
The athletic recruiting game was quite different, for both Catholic high schools and major college sports programs, in the 1960s – three decades before the Internet was birthed and long before “social” media platforms such as Twitter reared their electronic heads. Back then, if a coach wanted an eighth-grader to play for him at a certain high school, it was in his best interest to find out where the kid’s old man hung out socially and maybe get invited to a confirmation or graduation party.
It wasn’t much different for college coaches recruiting Chicago-area talent, particularly for the football gridiron and hardwood basketball courts. They knew where to go to meet a concentration of high school coaches in the city: Maguire’s.
Every February Chicago Catholic League (CCL) football coaches congregate at the league’s annual clinic in Oak Park at Fenwick, where the powwow has been held every winter for the past 72 years. Older fans will recall that, in the 1960s and ’70s, Fenwick and the CCL were recruiting hotbeds for Big Ten football coaches, including University of Michigan legend Bo Schembechler. Some coaches also may recall that, a few years back, a keg could be found tapped in the school’s lower-level student “green” cafeteria, where the post-clinic fraternizing commenced. Nowadays the coaches toast their religion and each other on Madison Street in Forest Park, which is exactly where the college coaches knew where to find them back in the day.
Giving the tavern a school’s name originally was the brainchild of college recruiters in town to woo the coaches of prospects from Chicago. Telling their athletic directors, to whom they reported back at the real universities, that they were conducting business at “Maguire University” sounded more respectable than Maguire’s Pub. Hence, the pseudonym was born.
‘Coaching soccer at Fenwick is integral to my ministry as a Dominican Friar’ — especially in the heat of battle!
By Father Dennis Woerter, O.P. ’86
Pelé, whom I consider to be the greatest soccer player of all time, said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, studying, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Certainly, he had much success, helping Brazil win three World Cups and currently holding the fifth spot in the list of top World Cup goal scorers, with 12. At Fenwick, we want our students to be successful, and we never shy away from the fact that success requires hard work, perseverance, studying, sacrifice and love. Pelé’s words apply to us all!
I have coached both boys’ and girls’ soccer at Fenwick for six years, beginning with the fall season in 2012. Soccer strategy is the same for both: Coaches adapt formations to the personnel and make adjustments throughout the season. The skills are the same for all who play soccer, but there is a lot more to the game than winning and losing.
I tell my players before the first game to “remember the shield.” When on the field, they represent Fenwick; and referees, opponents, opposing coaches and spectators notice the ways in which a team respects all aspects of the game. It is telling that the Fenwick boys’ soccer program has won the Chicago Catholic League Sportsmanship award a few times! This award is given to the entire program.
It is important, though, to reflect on how coaching soccer at Fenwick is integral to my ministry as a Dominican Friar. I played soccer at Fenwick and Loras College. Fenwick had started soccer in 1981, so my freshman year of 1982 was the second year of varsity soccer. Both our boys’ and girls’ programs are now consistent winners. My first year at Loras (1986) was their first year as an NCAA program. They are now a Division III powerhouse!
Pele’s words resonate for us as coaches. We work our players hard. We encourage them to keep going when they may want to give up. We have classroom sessions where we design plays and explain strategy. When faced with obstacles, coaches figure out new ways of integrating team personnel. The demands of a season result in coaches and players spending a lot time away from home. Most important of all, though, we share the love of the sport with those we are charged to coach. This love is not only for the sport, but for the players we coach.
The foundation of ministry is forming relationships. Coaching is a lot like ministry. In order to be a successful coach, relationships must be formed with players. In order to influence players, they must see the coach as someone who is competent and compassionate! The coach also must have the player’s best interest in mind.
This can be exemplified by an experience I had during a game last spring. We were winning a particular game, but one of the referees was one we had trouble with before. During the course of the game, he showed some amazing disrespect to me by some things he said. I reacted by saying some things only the girls on the bench could hear. One of them, a captain, led me aside and said, “FD (my nickname), don’t lower yourself to his level. We all know you are right.”
Notice, she didn’t say, “I know you are right.” She said, “We know.”
About the Author
A Class of 1986 alumnus, Fr. Woerter teaches Theology at Fenwick and is the Director of Campus Ministry. Father Dennis (FD) also coaches as an assistant on the sophomore boys’ and junior-varsity girls’ soccer teams. He received a B.A. in speech communication (journalism) from Loras College, a Master of Divinity from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a M.A. in Theology (Catholic Social Teaching) from the Aquinas Institute and a Doctor of Ministry degree (Preaching in the Practice of Ministry) from the Iliff School of Theology.
Fenwick High School periodically profiles people affiliated with our community who have since passed on …
Dan O’Brien ’34 (1917-2003)
Remembering DOB, “the Dobber:” a coaching/training legend affiliated with Fenwick for seven decades.
By Mark Vruno
In the basement of Fenwick High School sets the Dan O’Brien Natatorium. Our swimming Friars will host the 30th Annual Dan O’Brien Relays this coming January. Younger alumni and present-day students may wonder: Who was this O’Brien guy and why is he a such a legend at Fenwick?
Dan O’Brien was more than a stellar swim/dive guru; he was versatile. DOB was a FHS student (Class of 1934) who then served as a physical education teacher at his alma mater. “Dan’s first Fenwick paycheck predated the Social Security system and had no social security withholding,” deadpans Jerry Lordan, PhD., who teaches social studies at Fenwick and wrote the preface for O’Brien’s oral history, a hardcover book entitled Fenwick Over the Years.
In 1937 Football Coach Tony Lawless hired O’Brien to lead his freshman team. Football was O’Brien’s first love in sports. In the fall of 1930, seven years earlier, Fenwick was only one year old. Dan was a scrawny, 128-pound freshman who showed up for tryouts at the new school, only to be snickered at by burly classmates and upper-classmen. “Sorry, son,” said Lawless, according to a 1972 Oak Leaves article. “I can’t use you. You’ve come out for the wrong team.”
O’Brien, however, was determined and refused to give up easily. Here’s how reporter Ted Londos recounted the story 42 years later:
“The kid faced the wise, young coach and replied firmly, ‘Mr. Lawless, I’ve come out for the team. You’ve asked for candidates. Here I am. You’ve got to give me a chance to show you what I can do.’ And so, to get rid of that reckless kid, Tony put him into a scrimmage – just for laughs. But on the first play, Coach Lawless’s eyes popped when he saw the tiny freshman bring a varsity giant down with a devastating tackle. Again he tried him out, and another regular bit the dust. Young Lawless shrugged his shoulders and decided to let the gutsy little guy hang around. ‘What’s your name?’ asked the coach.”
But the feisty O’Brien’s gridiron career with the Fighting Friars was short-lived. As a sophomore he suffered severe medical complications from the surgical removal of a kidney, which kept 15-year-old Daniel out of school for an extended period of time in 1931-32. “His surgeon warned him that the procedure may either fail and/or kill him,” Lordan later learned. “Dan outlived the surgeon and saw the surgeon’s grandchildren (twin boys) attend Fenwick.”
Fast-forward 45 years, to when two of his former swimmers-turned-doctors came to O’Brien’s aid. “I had come back to Chicago in 1977,” recalls Leonard Vertuno ’57, M.D., a Loyola-educated nephrologist (kidney specialist), “and Pete Geis knocked on my door.” Dr. Peter Geis ’60 was a transplant surgeon and an All-State swimmer three years ahead of Vertuno at Fenwick. “Pete said, ‘Dan needs a doctor, and you’re it.’”
So began a reuniting of player and coach – and an adult friendship that would span more than a quarter-century. It was Dr. Vertuno who would give the eulogy at Dan O’Brien’s funeral in 2003. “He was an amazing man,” the retired doc said in early November from Sarasota, FL. “Dan was renowned nationally and internationally. He chose to stay at Fenwick and work with Tony [Lawless].”
From field to pool
Congratulations to former Fenwick football standout Dominic Tedesco ’74, who on May 4 will be inducted into the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame. Tedesco was a two-way starter at Fenwick, playing tight end on offense and strong safety/ linebacker on defense. His fourth-quarter and overtime heroics — a touchdown tying catch at the end of regulation and game-ending interception in overtime — culminated in a Friars’ victory over the Weber Red Horde. His senior season (1973) saw Fenwick defeat two different teams that each ranked #1 in the state. Dominic was named to the Catholic League All-Conference Team on offense and the All-State Team on defense. He received the Outstanding Student-Athlete Award from the Holy Cross Club of Chicago and was named to the New World All-America Team.
Tedesco went on to play at the University of Michigan while studying pre-med. He played on three Big Ten Championship teams, an Orange Bowl and Rose Bowls his junior and senior years. He was recognized by Sports Illustrated as one of the stars of the 1977 Rose Bowl game. He received All-Big Ten Academic Team honors in 1976 and 1977 and was named to the All-Big Ten Team in 1977. He was the first recipient of the Ernest T. Siglar Award presented annually to the outstanding University of Michigan scholar athlete.
Dominic attended Loyola Stritch School of Medicine and later did his general and cardiothoracic surgery residencies at Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center. He has been practicing cardiothoracic surgery in Southern California for 27 years and has performed more than 5,000 heart surgeries. Tedesco was invested as a Knight in the Order of Malta and serves on the medical team for the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, France.
“I thank my mother, Delores, for being my biggest fan and supporter,” says the soon-to-be Hall of Famer, who lives in Southern California with his wife, Carolyn, “who gave me my three greatest treasures in life: Nicholas, Quentin and Carina.”
Joining Tedesco in the CCL HOF are three other 2017 inductees with Fenwick connections:
- Don Sebestyen, dean of students and head varsity football coach from 1981-86.
- Will Rey, Friars’ head varsity basketball coach from 1982-85, who also coached at Gordon Tech (now DePaul Prep) and is still coaching at the collegiate level.
- Ed Formanski, who served as a counselor for years at Fenwick before moving to Hinsdale Central High School.