By all accounts, George Verber hated to lose.
His intensity as a longtime teacher and coach at Maine South and later Maine West high schools was infamous, but the coach finally lost a battle he couldn't win.
Verber succumbed to leukemia on Tuesday, Jan. 22, after a four-year fight. The former Arlington Heights resident was 71.
"He was one in a million," said Dave Scott, who took over the basketball program from Verber at Maine West in 1990 and then asked him back to coach the freshmen teams until 2001.
"Whether you had him as a PE teacher or as a coach, you remembered him," added Scott, who retired last year. "He was very intense and a stickler for discipline, but the kids all looked up to him and knew he cared."
Don Olson, a former baseball coach at Maine East, said Verber's players reflected their coach's intensity.
"His ballclubs were always fundamentally sound and disciplined," Olson said, "and that came from their coach, who was at heart, really a teacher."
Verber began his career as a baseball coach at Maine South, but he won his only state title in basketball. In 1979, he was the top assistant to head coach Quitman Sullins when the boys basketball team won the Class AA title, beating heavily favored Quincy High School.
Their state championship still resonated more than 10 years later, when in 1990 the team and coaches were inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
Verber left Maine South that year to help rebuild the basketball program at Maine West, coaching there for seven years before returning to South. As a head coach of the Hawks over the next four years, his teams won three regional titles and compiled a 67-43 record.
He was inducted into Maine South's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, where his official biography reflected the keys to his success: "George showed young athletes that developing individual discipline allowed them to achieve team discipline -- the key to becoming champions on and off the playing field."
Verber's love of the game started early. He grew up in Des Plaines and was a star baseball player for Maine Township High School -- including being named to the all-tournament team as an outfielder when the school won its second successive state baseball title in 1959.
He graduated from the new Maine West High School in 1960, and he earned all area honors from the Daily Herald that year.
Colleagues say Verber enjoyed watching his own sons, Brad and Brian, compete as multisport athletes during the 1990s at Buffalo Grove High School.
"He was definitely a supporter of our programs," said Doug Millstone, former Buffalo Grove boys basketball coach. "You could always count on him for advice."
Besides his sons, Verber is survived by his wife, Barbara. No services are planned.