Bulls

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."

Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

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USA TODAY

Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Healthy in October for the first time in three seasons, Zach LaVine entered training camp as the $78 million man looking to justify one of the summer’s largest deals that many criticized.

And just a few days into camp, the spotlight homed in on him further when the Bulls lost Lauri Markkanen to an elbow injury.

LaVine responded to both challenges, putting together a preseason performance that not even the most optimistic expectations could have included.

In just 22.3 minutes he averaged 17.8 points on 52 percent shooting, made 44 percent of his triples and got to the free throw line a team best 4.8 times per game. In short, he looked much more like the potential franchise-building piece the Bulls believed they were acquiring 19 months ago.

“I’m my hardest critic, so there’s nothing on the outside that I haven’t told myself of where I want to be at. You want to tell the doubters on the outside I told you so, but it’s mostly coming from a place where I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for.’’

The fifth-year shooting guard was fluid, attacked in a variety of ways and looked like part of the offense, something that at times was non-existent during last year’s injury-riddled comeback season. Taking shots in rhythm, attacking the rim instead of settling for contested jumpers, running the floor. LaVine looked a lot like the player who shot 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep before the ACL injury in 2017.

“I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season. I think last year still, I was trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played,” LaVine said Monday at the Advocate Center. “I’d play two good games and two bad games. I felt like that up and down was a little bit with the consistency of not playing. Now that I’m back fully I think that’s where I should be.”

The offensive uptick is a sight for sore eyes, especially with Markkanen on the mend. But where LaVine can quiet his harshest critics – including himself – is on the defensive end.

It’s just a five-game sample size, but LaVine’s individual defensive rating of 97.3 was better than the team’s overall 100.2 rating. A year ago, LaVine’s defensive rating was 113.9, the worst on the team, and worse than the team’s overall 110.4 mark. They’re baby steps, but steps nonetheless for a player who knows what the book says about him on that end of the floor.

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” he said. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

The preseason is one hurdle cleared, but they get much taller and difficult to get over when Thursday and the Philadelphia 76ers come around. No matter who starts in the frontcourt – Fred Hoiberg isn’t ready to announce Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. yet – or if the Bulls get good Jabari Parker instead of preseason Jabari Parker, all eyes will be on LaVine.

It’s the contract. It’s being the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butle trade. It’s how well he played before the injury and how dominant he looked in the preseason. He’s off to a good start and knows now is this time to build on it.

“There are a lot of things you want to reach and get better at every year, and I put a lot of work into this offseason,” he said. “I have a lot of things to prove and want to get better at, and yeah, I feel like it’s just motivation for yourself when you want to accomplish things.’’

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. 

Week 9 is “Bubble Week” for many teams fighting to stay on the right side of the postseason bubble. Who moves on? Whose bubble will burst? Will Wauconda advance to the playoffs after finishing 2-7 last year? Or will Grant end their season on a winning note? Schaumburg and Fremd both stand at 4-4. The winner goes to the postseason. The winner stays home for November. Zion-Benton hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003. A win over Libertyville gets them there. But for the Wildcats, this ‘is’ their playoff game. Who wins in the North Suburban conference? We’ll send our cameras to one of the following:

Grant at Wauconda, 7:15 p.m.

Schaumburg at Fremd, 7:30 p.m.

Libertyville at Zion-Benton, 7:30 p.m.

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.