Gary Wolf always thinks of his basketball coaching mentor at every practice or game.
That will definitely be true tonight. Wolf is in his third year as an assistant coach at Hinsdale South, which hosts Leyden, where he worked for Norm Goodman in the final six years of his legendary coaching run.
Wolf was also thinking of Goodman about a month ago when Hinsdale South was in the midst of a battle with Conant big man Ryan Davis.
"I was yelling for Norm to help and he left me hanging," Wolf joked about trying to slow down the Vermont-bound Davis.
Goodman may have passed away five years ago but the legacy he developed in basketball circles is still alive and thriving at all levels. He won 75 percent of his games (548-185) and 8 regional and 3 sectional titles from 1961-90 at East Leyden and Leyden and coached players such as NCAA champions Glen Grunwald (Indiana, 1981) and Mike Griffin (Michigan, 1989) and former Bulls broadcaster Tom Dore.
"Rarely does a day go by where I don't think about something Norm taught me or said or talked about," said Northridge Prep boys coach Will Rey, whose four decades of coaching include five years in charge of the Loyola University men's program.
"He was as good of a teacher of offensive and defensive fundamentals as you would want to see," said Bob Ward, who was a boys head coach at Round Lake, Wheaton North and St. Francis and is now a girls assistant at Wheaton North. "We refer to ourselves as Norm's branches."
Goodman's roots have branched out far and wide. Jeff Watkinson, who played for Goodman in 1988-89, is an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz. The long college coaching career of Jerry Wainwright, who assisted Goodman in the 1970s, included a stint as DePaul's head coach and has him currently assisting at Fresno State.
Brian Rose, who played when Wolf was still a Leyden assistant in 1996, won a regional title last year at Foreman on Chicago's North Side. Ward has passed on what he learned from Goodman to coaches such as Jim Nazos (Batavia), Scott Hennig (Geneva), Jim Thomas (Downers Grove North), Chris Snyder (Lakes), Vince Doran (York), Dave Eaton (Wheaton North) and Mike Dunn (Yorkville).
"He was not only a great teacher of players but he was always a great mentor to coaches," Rey said.
Rey, Wolf and Ward experienced that first-hand with Goodman.
When Rey was a sophomore at Triton College an assignment in a coaching class was to write a scouting report from a high school game and take notes from a practice. Rey didn't know Goodman but called him to begin a basketball education he could not have imagined.
"He was great," said Rey, who is now in his 14th year of a successful tenure at Northridge after 19 years in college coaching. "He took me under his wing and basically brought me up in coaching. There was no doubt he was the first really significant influence I had as a coach."
Rey believed Goodman had a unique ability to project what players, coaches and teams would become down the road.
"I was 20 when I met Norm and I had no idea I would coach for the next 40-some years," Rey said. "Norm was someone who really prompted me to coach and inspired me. He did that for a lot of guys.
"Norm had that quality of seeing a person, not where they are at today, but where they could become."
Wolf came to Leyden after working as an assistant for Ward at downstate Spring Valley Hall.
"When I first met Norm, he asked me what I know about defense and I said, 'I think I'm a pretty good defensive coach,'" said Wolf, who also won 446 games as Leyden's baseball coach from 1989-2011. "I showed him some drills I did and he broke them all down into 10 other drills.
"By the time we played a team I thought we knew their offense as well as they knew their offense."
Ward got to know Goodman through Wolf. Ward went from working Goodman's Future Stars camp at Lake Forest College to partnering with him and then taking it over with former Highland Park coach Mike Kolze.
And Goodman's love of basketball continued after he retired from the Leyden sideline.
"He was always on top of the game, researching the game and studying coaches and coming up with different concepts," Ward said. "You would see him and Norm would have a great new drill for you. He was the ultimate student of the game. He was never afraid to improvise."
One of the areas where Goodman excelled was getting his teams to play tough, halfcourt, man-to-man defense. The pressure on the ball and denial in the passing lanes could be stifling.
"We would play some games where other coaches would yell at him to take off the press and all we were doing was playing half-court defense," Wolf said. "We'd be up 30 but we'd still be up the line and still be pressuring the ball."
Wolf brought a lot of the same drills he got from Goodman when he decided to get back into coaching basketball and went to Hinsdale South to work for Brett Moore. Ward said "Norm would be proud" the Wheaton North girls play some pressure man-to-man.
Rey also recalled that Kentucky was running rebounding drills called "Goodman drills" under head coach Joe B. Hall in the 1970s and 1980s.
"Norm was brilliant and he saw the game from a different perspective than most people," Rey said. "Norm was always ahead of the trends. He had an ability to see the way the game was unfolding and he always seemed to be there before anybody else got there.
"When they caught up he was on to something else. All of our player development stuff that we do today was all stuff I learned from Norm in the '70s."
Rey, Ward and Wolf talk regularly every week. The way they share ideas and talk about situations keeps their admiration for what Goodman did for them and basketball alive.
"About eight or nine years ago after a game, I introduced him to my kids," Rey said. "He paid me the greatest compliment. He said, 'Watching you guys reminded me of my teams at Leyden.'
"I could have jumped over the moon. There could be no greater compliment. He was an incredible person."