Gordon Tech's Winiecki is a hall of famer

Gordon Tech's Winiecki is a hall of famer

Monday, Sept. 19, 2011
Posted: 11:16 a.m.
By Taylor Bell
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Tom Winiecki didn't want to be a football coach. So who would have dreamed that he would coach for 31 years?

Oh, he loved to play the game. A Leo graduate of 1958, he started on the Lions' 1956 Prep Bowl Championship team, then went on to be a two-time letter-man at Michigan State. But that's when the 5-foot-10, 215-pound tackle figured his football career was over. He had other plans.

"I had planned to be one of three things; a union representative, a government representative or work with the unions in some capacity," said Winiecki, who was completing his degree in economics. "Chicago is a big union town and my father was a steelworker. I knew one thing for sure, I didn't want to coach."

But Larry Bielat, a Michigan State teammate and a Gordon Tech graduate, got a job at Gordon Tech on the recommendation of Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty. When Daugherty asked Winiecki what he wanted to do, he agreed to join Bielat as an assistant in 1963. Three years later, he became head coach.

"I figured coaching would be like the Peace Corps, that I'd get out after a few years. But I really enjoyed it," Winiecki said. "I respected what coach Jim Arneberg had done for me at Leo. We had a lot of good times. I loved my relationship with the coaches and the kids."

So much so that Winiecki turned down an offer from former Mount Carmel coach Frank Maloney to join Maloney's staff at Syracuse. He had other offers, including Illinois.

"But it came down to the fact that I'd rather have Frank's friendship than having to protect his back," Winiecki said. "I always enjoyed the relationship that I had with coaches in the Catholic League and at Gordon Tech in particular."

From 1966 to 1996, Winiecki posted a 192-112-2 record and won a state championship in 1980. He is most proud of the players he helped to send to college and the 13 present and past coaches who developed under his leadership, including his son Steve, now head coach at Deerfield.

It all adds up to a distinguished career that has earned a spot in the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame's class of 2011. Winiecki and 19 other honorees will be recognized on Wednesday at Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie in Cicero.

Winiecki will feel at home. The class includes four other Chicago Catholic Leaguers--former Big 10 official Frank Strocchia, Loyola football coach John Holecek, basketball coach Tom O'Malley and the late Mike Rabold.

Winiecki served as president of the Catholic League's athletic directors for 13 years and Strocchia was a longtime commissioner of the Catholic League. Strocchia was also a well-known football official and spent many Sundays arguing with Winiecki on the sideline.

"He worked in the Big 10 with Bo (Schembechler) and Woody (Hayes) on Saturdays, then worked Catholic League games at Gately Stadium on Sundays," Winiecki said. "I told my kids: 'Don't give him any lip.' He gave so much to the league. He brings back old memories. It's ironic to see us going into the Hall of Fame together."

Others who will be inducted at the 15th annual event are former Proviso East and Marquette basketball star Glenn "Doc" Rivers, now coach of the Boston Celtics, former Julian, Illinois and Denver Broncos' football star Howard Griffith, and former Robeson, Colorado and Dallas Cowboys football star Mickey Pruitt, now football coordinator for the Chicago Public League.

Also former NFL players Dave Casper and Paul Flatley, volleyball coach Therese Boyle-Niego of Loyola University, former Chicago Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas, former Chicago Blackhawks star Pierre Pilote, sports agent Steve Zucker, and former DePaul track and field star Mabel Landry Staton.

Special award recipients are NFL star Barry Sanders, Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun, former Chicago Blackhawks star Bobby Hull, former Notre Dame and NFL star Rocky Bleier and former WGN sports editor Jack Rosenberg.

So much has changed since the Catholic League was dominated by such iconic figures as Winiecki, Fenwick's Tony Lawless, St. George's Max Burnell, St. Rita's Pat Cronin, St. Laurence's Tom Kavanagh, Loyola's Bob Spoo and John Hoerster, Mendel's Lou Guida, Brother Rice's Tom Mitchell and Mount Carmel's Frank Lenti.

Two issues that helped drive Winiecki into retirement were communication with parents and college recruiting.

"I coached football and worried about the kids on the field and in the classroom. I didn't have to worry about parents -- not until the end," he said. "Maybe that's why coaches get out, why they don't coach for 20 or 30 years anymore, too much pressure from parents.

"The Internet and scouting services and scholarship organizations and sports talk radio and exposure camps have changed attitudes. Parents begin to think they now as much or more than the coach. If I listened to them, I'd be changing plays and lineups every day. The school administration has to support the coaching staff."

Winiecki pointed out that parents used to trust the coach to handle their son's recruiting and college coaches accepted a high school coach's evaluation of a prospect. Recruiters came to the school to view eight and 16-mm film for hours at a time, no longer.

"College coaches started bypassing you. Instead, they would go directly to the kid or a recruiting analyst. It got to the point where they didn't need a high school coach anymore," Winiecki said. "I used to tell them who could play for them. In those days, your word was good. I sent kids to Illinois, Michigan, Purdue and Northern Illinois. They respected your opinion. But then everything changed.

"Today, you have to coach 13 months out of the year. You have to promise kids that they will get better exposure with your offense. Kids used to take summers off, now there is pressure to attend summer camps and 7-on-7 camps or weightlifting workouts. If you don't attend, you're told that you will be overlooked by the college coaches.

"For me, coaching wasn't fun anymore. I didn't enjoy it. That's why I gave it up. I loved the hunt, the game itself. The thrill of the hunt was still there but I didn't enjoy the process. In my view, kids were burning out. They weren't allowed to be kids."

Blackhawks trade Artem Anisimov to Senators for Zack Smith

Blackhawks trade Artem Anisimov to Senators for Zack Smith

The Blackhawks are spending the next week focusing on their prospects at development camp, but GM Stan Bowman took care of some housekeeping items on the big club on Tuesday when he traded forward Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Zack Smith.

Anisimov had two years left on his contract that carries a $4.55 million cap hit, but his modified no-trade clause was removed on July 1, which opened up more trade possibilities. He was also owed a $2 million signing bonus when the new calendar year opened and his actual salary over the next two years dropped to $5 million total, giving a rebuilding team like the Senators a chance to add a depth forward for a lower price.

Couple that with the fact Anisimov's role with the Blackhawks has diminished over the years and you can see why this traded was made from Chicago's point of view.

"First off, Arty was a great Blackhawk," Bowman said on Tuesday. "We wish him well. I think stylistically they play different games. Both veterans, both have played in the league for a long time. I think Zack brings a different skill set to the table, something that we probably need a little bit more of. He certainly plays with a competitive side to him, plays with an edge. He's had some years in the past where he's scored a lot but I think the thing we like about his game is the versatility and you notice him. He's tough to play against out there."

Smith compiled 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 70 games for the Senators last season, and served as the alternate captain during the 2017-18 campaign. He's known to be a power forward, can play a heavy game and has experience playing center or wing. He's also expected to play a role on the penalty kill, an area the Blackhawks have been looking to address all summer long.

"It would definitely be one of the [areas] I consider my stronger points of the game," Smith said on a conference call. "I take a lot of pride in it. I enjoy it, playing against top lines and killing penalties. I think I've improved on that, especially over the last couple years. Talking to Stan and Jeremy [Colliton] this morning, they said the same thing, we want to be more responsible defensively and that's why we brought you in. I'm more than happy to accept that role and help them in any way possible."

The 31-year-old Smith has two years left on his contract that carries a cap hit of $3.25 million. With the trade, the Blackhawks opened up $1.3 million in cap space, which gives them some financial breathing room to make transactions throughout the season and potentially re-sign Brendan Perlini, who remains an unsigned restricted free agent.

"I think that was part of the deal as well," Bowman said." A benefit. We do save a little bit on the cap. We still have a little bit of work to do there, but we're looking better now than we were yesterday."

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Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

Pro Football Focus doesn’t seem to expect much regression for the Bears defense, at least when it comes to run defense.

PFF analyst Mike Renner ranked every team’s ability to stop the ground game, heading into 2019, and Chicago remains on top.

The team retained its entire front seven, top-to-bottom, with the exception of Sam Acho, who spent most of last season on injured reserve anyway.

One of the biggest keys, in Renner’s analysis, is Akiem Hicks, who was among Pro Football Focus’ top performers in the running game.

“The former Saint is proving himself one of the best free agent additions in recent memory,” Renner wrote. “His 13.3 run-stop percentage was the second-highest figure of any interior defender in the NFL last season.”

The Bears allowed the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any defense last season, and the 3.8 yards per attempt they gave up was fourth best.

With the whole gang back together for 2019, the team is in a great spot to run it back under Chuck Pagano.