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Goers back in shape--to coach again?

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Goers back in shape--to coach again?

It has been seven months since Steve Goers announced his retirement as head basketball coach at Rockford Boylan. He left as the winningest coach in state history in boys competition, doesn't regret that he didn't achieve the 900-victory milestone but won't dismiss the notion that he might return.

"I had time to think after the season was over," Goers said. "I had an operation on my knee a week before. I realized I wouldn't be in shape to run my summer camp when it was supposed to start in June. I'm 69 years old and I felt it was time. I'm not burned out.

"What wears you down in this profession is that you are working for 365 days a year...off-the-court stuff, AAU, recruiting, conditioning. The practices and games are fun. They always have been. And I'm in better shape today than I have been in a couple of years."

He works out regularly. He has trimmed down from 224 pounds to 202. His goal is 183, his wedding weight. On this night, while Rockford Boylan is playing Rockton Hononegah, he is at home relaxing with his wife and planning future trips to see his three children and five grandchildren.

His wife recently retired from the Rockford public schools. They believe it is time to see their son Tim coach his basketball team in Booneville, Arkansas. Steve has spend 43 of the past 44 Christmas seasons at basketball tournament. He wonders what life would be like without basketball.

"I miss basketball. I miss coaching," he said. "But I enjoy my flexibility now. I don't have to worry about coaching. There is no stress. But I do miss the challenges. I miss teaching."

He admits he would consider another job for all the right reasons. "I would coach again if the right opportunity came up. But I won't sell my house and move 200 miles to coach in another town," he said.

"I'd much rather do what I want to do when I want to do it rather than coach for another five or six years and not be able to go where I want to go and have to have my kids come to see us."

In the meantime, he can reflect on his coaching accomplishments. He coached at four high schools in 39 years, the last 31 at Rockford Boylan. He won 881 games in his career, including a 752-189 mark at Boylan. His teams won 27 conference, 28 regional and 17 sectional championships. He had a state-record 30 consecutive winning seasons. Twenty-six of his last twenty-eight Boylan teams won at least 20 games. He qualified for the Elite Eight eight times and finished fourth in the Class AA tournament in 1992, 1994 and 1997.

He said his best team was 1992 when Lee Lampley, Boylan's all-time leading scorer, was suspended for disciplinary reasons after the regional and the Titans lost to Peoria Richwoods by one point in the state semifinals. "We missed an offensive rebound and a lay-up in the last second," he recalled. Lampley, Durrell Banks, Johnny Hernandez, Michael Slaughter and Tim Hobson finished fourth with a 30-3 record.

But he can't overlook his 1998 team that finished 30-2, losing to Galesburg and Joey Range twice, including 68-63 in the Sweet Sixteen. Galesburg went on to finish second in the Class AA tournament. Goers had three Division I players on that squad--Damir Krupalija, Jeff Myers and Joe Tulley. Krupalija played at Illinois, Tulley at DePaul.

"What do I miss most about coaching? Helping boys become men. I used to tell them: 'Come to camp as a boy and leave as a man,'" he said.

Goers grew up in Chicago. A Gage Park graduate of 1960, he characterized his basketball skills in modest fashion: "I could pass the ball. I saw the game. Once in a while, I could hit an outside shot. I was slow," he said.

He tried out for Spin Salario's team at Chicago Teachers College at Navy Pier but didn't make it. He spent two years in the Army, then enrolled at Western Illinois and began to coach kids at the YMCA in Macomb. "Coaching started to grow on me," he said.

Goers had another option. His father had founded a printing business on Chicago's North Side in 1950, which his brother still operates today. But Steve didn't want to give up basketball. He worked as a graduate assistant, obtained a masters degree in physical education and health and got a job at tiny Bardolph (enrollment: 58 students), a suburb of Macomb.

He won seven games in his first season, the most the school had won in 10 years. Then he made the most important decision of his life. When the school principal suggested that he should invite coach Red Rogers of Hamilton to speak at the team's postseason banquet, Goers said: "Why not Sherrill Hanks (of Quincy) or John Thiel (of Galesburg)?"

To his surprise, Hanks accepted. "I met him. I realized how much I didn't know," Goers said.

He became an assistant coach at Crete-Monee for one year, then went to Quincy for three years to work with Hanks. "It was the turning point in my career. I got my basketball education," he said.

He went to Oswego, produced an Elite Eight finalist in 1974, went to La Salle-Peru for three years, was fired for not playing a school board member's son in a tennis tournament, went to Harvard for two years, then landed at Boylan in 1980 after legendary coach Dolph Stanley retired.

"At that time, Boylan was a footballbaseball school. Kids went to Boylan to play football," Goers said. "When I was hired, the school had been to the state finals only once in its history, Dolph's first year. At my first camp, I only had 35 kids. But we got to the Sweet Sixteen in my second year."

The game never got dull for him. He never stopped loving the game, teaching his kids, winning games, competing against other great coaches. But he didn't like the distractions. None was bigger or more irritating than AAU or summer travel basketball.

"Now parents are putting their kids on pedestals instead of letting the high school coach do his job," Goers said. "Coaches used to be treated like the family physician. If he told you something, you did it. Now parents think they know more about basketball and recruiting than the coach."

"They get their information from reading articles and looking at the Internet listening to AAU coaches. They forget one important word, entitlement. This is the age of entitlement. Parents feel their sons or daughters are entitled to what they want and they will do whatever they need to do to see that they get it."

"But they fail to understand that if a kid can't overcome adversity when it looks him or her in the eye, how can they overcome it in adult life? When their parents aren't there for them? They have to learn to make decisions without their parents around. It is time to grow up."

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Bears general manager Ryan Pace, like everyone else in the United States right now, is doing his best to do his job in what's become a bizarre new normal of social distancing. Fortunately for him and the rest of the team's staff and players, Halas Hall is well-equipped to handle COVID-19's challenges.

The renovations at Halas Hall couldn't have come at a better time. The more expansive campus provides the Bears with the space needed to keep the players and coaches as safe as possible. For Pace, it offers a greater opportunity to appreciate the little things while catching a meal with Matt Nagy.

“So the last two nights, we discovered how nice it is,” Pace said, via MMQB. “You sit out there, and it forces you to take a different vantage point during the day. Beautiful view, and it’s pretty peaceful.”

As Albert Breer pointed out, Pace and Nagy's view includes four outdoor practice fields and a couple of ponds. Not too shabby.

The most important takeaway isn't the landscape. Instead, it's safety. 

NFL players have until Thursday to decide whether they'll opt-out of the 2020 season, and for teams that are lacking the facilities Chicago has, it's more likely high-risk players or those with families at high-risk will choose to sit out the season.

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Jordan Lucas have decided to opt out this year, and there's a chance more will do the same. 

Pace is confident in Chicago's COVID-19 plan. We'll see if the players are too.

For now, Pace is finding comfort in the little things. 

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Usually when GMs, managers and fans get ready for a baseball season, any consistent production from the Nos. 4 and 5 starters is a luxury. In the Cubs’ case, it’s been an embarrassment of riches through two turns of the rotation.

Through 10 games, the Cubs are 8-2, good for the best win percentage in the National League. One huge reason for that has been the team’s incredible starting pitching. Kyle Hendricks set the tone early when he pitched a complete game shutout in the very first game of the season. Now, the Cubs’ starters lead MLB in ERA (1.95), batting average against (.156) and WHIP (0.780). They’ve done all that while also throwing 60 innings, second only to the Indians who have thrown 70 innings.

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At first glance you’d probably think, yeah, that makes sense with Hendricks starting the season the way he did, and Darvish getting back on track with six innings of two-hit ball in his second start. But surprisingly the only two clunkers came in Hendricks and Darvish starts. In fact, the analytics say Jon Lester and Alec Mills, the Cubs’ last two guys in the rotation have been two of the most impressive starters in MLB.

Let’s start by looking at the ERAs of all starters who have at least 8 IP, since the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. If 8 IP seems like an arbitrary cutoff… well, it is. But it seems like a fair number to assess quality pitchers who have made two starts in this shortened season with short leashes on pitchers. Among those pitchers, Lester and Mills each rank in the top-10 with ERAs of 0.82 and 1.38, respectively, according to FanGraphs.

So how are they doing it? Neither is a power pitcher who relies on strikeouts. In fact, Lester’s four punchouts place him tied for fourth-fewest in our split of SPs who have thrown more than 8 IP. Mills’ seven strikeouts (tied for 10th-fewest) aren’t much better. These guys succeed by keeping guys off the base paths, and not allowing hard-hit balls.

Looking at batting average against, Lester and Mills move into MLB’s top-five, according to our FanGraphs split, with each pitcher holding batters under .120. Since we’ve already established that neither guy is a power pitcher, when we filter further to just show BAA on balls put in play it should come as no surprise that Lester and Mills rise to No. 1 and No. 2 in all of baseball with .118 and .139 marks, respectively.

Great defense, like Javy Baez’s tag in Monday’s game, certainly helps the pitchers’ stats. But the starters also make things easier on the defense by inducing poor contact, regardless of whether the ball is hit on the ground or the air. According to FanGraphs, Mills ranks second in MLB by inducing soft contact on 33.3% of all balls put into play. In addition, he’s 11th in MLB with a 54.3 ground ball percentage. Lester ranks ninth by getting hitters to make soft contact 26.5% of the time, although he’s 11th in the league in getting batters to hit fly balls 47.1% of the time.

In the end the result is the same, with Mills and Lester combining to only allow four extra base hits in 24 IP. So although they aren’t typical “dominant” pitchers that teams like to make their aces, Mills and Lester have been two of the most effective starters in the game.


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