Hersey High School's first basketball coach, whose 1974 squad was the first Mid-Suburban League team to advance to the Elite Eight, has died.
Robert Steingraber coached the Huskies from 1968 to 1977. His 1974 team, which included former Chicago Bull Dave Corzine, excited the Northwest suburbs so much that the Daily Herald ran one of its longest headlines in history after they beat Waukegan High School in the supersectional at Northwestern University.
The banner across the sports page read: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." It came straight out of "Mary Poppins," said its writer, former high school sports editor Bob Frisk. Their win was that dramatic.
The team went on to lose its first game in Champaign to Chicago Heights Bloom, but its place in history still stands.
Steingraber died Thursday. He was 84.
"It was unprecedented at the time," said Don Rowley, who coached the freshmen team under Steingraber at Hersey. "He helped everyone in the area break through and set the foundation for Hersey to return there in '85 and '95."
Corzine now serves as director of community outreach for DePaul's athletic department, after spending 13 years in the NBA. He still remembers playing high school ball for Steingraber, who taught him the game's fundamentals.
"I remember working a lot on drills, including ball-handling drills," Corzine said. "As a big guy, you don't always get to work on ballhandling. Most coaches want you to stay underneath the basket.
"But I developed into a good passer and had good hands because of those ball-handling drills," he added. "And that helped my career going forward."
Another of Steingraber's former players at Hersey was Andy Pancratz, who went to star at DePaul University before returning to the area to coach. He credits Steingraber with helping him get his first job at Hersey, before he later coached girls' basketball and feeder programs at Schaumburg High School.
"Roger's practices were intense," Pancratz said. "He expected us to play hard and give it your all, which we did."
In all, Steingraber worked 34 years for Northwest Suburban High School District 214, including terms at Buffalo Grove and Rolling Meadows high schools, as well as Hersey.
He taught driver's education, physical education and math, while coaching basketball, tennis and volleyball at various points in his career.
More recently, Steingraber was one of 18 veterans interviewed by St. Viator High School students for their book, "Lest We Forget: Arlington Heights' Korean War Veterans." In it, he described piloting B-26 aircraft on reconnaissance missions.
A graduate of York High School in Elmhurst and the University of Illinois, Steingraber was preceded in death by his son, Craig. He is survived by his wife, Janet, and four children, Scott (Dale) Steingraber, Leal Maloney, Jan Steingraber and Thor Steingraber; as well as four grandchildren.
Services took place Tuesday.