Unique basketball road leads Cregier to IBCA's Hall of Fame
There is still a bit of mystery related to how Ron Cregier got his start as a basketball coach.
Cregier was in his senior year as a student at Bellarmine University in Louisville when he returned from eating dinner one night to find a note. Tony Barone, who was then the coach at Mt. Carmel High School, wanted to talk to Cregier about an opening as a business teacher and assistant coach.
Cregier didn't know Barone, who would go on to become a college and NBA head coach, but came up to Chicago to meet with him and was offered the job.
"I asked Tony, 'How did you know about me or Bellarmine?'" Cregier said. "He said, 'The university is constantly sending me letters so I thought I would reciprocate and give a call down there.' Who he called and how he got my name, I have no idea."
Whoever was in Cregier's corner helped get him started on a 42-year coaching adventure at Mt. Carmel, Mendel, St. Viator, Schaumburg, Harper College and Fremd. It would be one of the people who put him on the path to his induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, which will take place May 2 at Illinois State University.
Cregier was nominated by Fremd boys coach Bob Widlowski and veteran official Fred Allman. Cregier's wife Marge kept quiet about what was in the works until he finally got the December letter with the news.
Cregier reflected on joining people such as official Peter King, long-time Stevenson assistant Paul Swan, former Fenton coach Dennis Cromer and so many other colleagues and friends he respects.
"Those guys (Widlowski and Allman) kept their cards so close to the vest," Cregier said. "I was totally oblivious to what they were doing and surprised. This is quite an honor."
But it was never a goal for Cregier, who just finished his first basketball season away from coaching and will be retiring as the head of Fremd's business department in a couple of months.
"My goal was to help kids both academically and athletically and I was never in it for myself," Cregier said. "Being a sports fan, I've seen the Hall of Fame inductions with baseball and football and the players always said 'My teammates mean so much.' I always felt it was just lip service and rhetoric.
"In my case I can certainly point to a number of people who were very instrumental in me getting the opportunity to be nominated."
Starting with Fr. Jack Gavin at now-shuttered Mendel on Chicago's South Side and Fr. Pat Cahill at Viator.
"They were risky enough to hire a young guy and take a chance with this young guy," Cregier said.
Then he had people such as Dr. Richard Kolze, principal Carl Weimer and athletic director John Paul help him with the transition to Schaumburg. And then-Fremd athletic director Jack Drollinger encouraged Cregier to stay involved, first with the girls program and then with the boys.
In one way or another, Cregier, who played high school basketball at downstate Peru St. Bede, wanted to be involved with sports. He played a year of basketball at Bellarmine and then spent the next three years as the school paper's sports editor.
"Probably very similar to anybody else, I remember starting basketball in the fifth grade and continuing on, with the opportunity to play in college," Cregier said. "There was that passion to stay in sports."
And it didn't matter if it was as a head coach -- which Cregier was at Mendel, Viator, Schaumburg and Harper -- or as an assistant. When he moved over from the girls to the boys program at Fremd, he made his desire clear to Widlowski.
"I said, 'I would like to be your assistant and I really don't want a team,'" Cregier said. "I'm just in it to help kids and teach."
Cregier was initially unsure of how he would handle not coaching this past winter. But he was never far from a gym, attending basketball games at Loyola, DePaul and UIC with his son Jonathan, or going to Metamora to see the middle-school volleyball team coached by his daughter Danielle.
And the opportunity to have more time to see his granddaughter -- and a grandson who is due in July -- is all part of the reason why the IBCA honor is so meaningful.
"Obviously you have to have good players and good parents and my wife has been very supportive and always encouraged me," Cregier said. "My family is going down (to the induction ceremony) and I'm really happy they can share this with me. That would be an understatement."