The suburban prep basketball world is mourning the loss of Ron Cregier, whose 42-year coaching career featured stops at St. Viator, Schaumburg and Fremd high schools before his 2015 induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Cregier, 68. of Hoffman Estates, was killed Saturday in a two-car crash near downstate Roanoke.
According to the Woodford County coroner's office, Cregier was driving a Chevrolet Corvette on a rural road Saturday afternoon when it was struck by a Chevrolet Equinox SUV that did not stop at a stop sign.
Cregier and the driver of the Equinox, 47-year-old Brenda Carlson of LaRose, Illinois, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Cregier's daughter, Nicole Connolly, said her father had been baby-sitting at his daughter Danielle's home in Metamora on Friday. He'd stayed the night, then went to see his 4-year-old granddaughter's soccer game before heading home.
"Moments before, he was with his grandchildren," she said.
It was his grandchildren who had occupied much of his time following his retirement from coaching two years ago.
"He just lived for his grandchildren," Connolly said. "If he wasn't with them, he was Facetiming them. He was the grandfather everybody would want to have."
Kids were also his primary focus as a coach, his son Jonathan Cregier said.
"It's not about wins and losses at that level. State championships are great. Division I players are great. But ultimately, what he did was about the grass roots," said Jonathan Cregier, who works in the Daily Herald's sports department.
Fremd boys basketball coach Bob Widlowski said Ron Cregier was the first coach he added to his staff after he landed the head coaching job at the Palatine school. Cregier would serve 15 years as Widlowski's assistant at Fremd, where he also helped coach the girls team and chaired the Business Education Department.
Before Fremd, Cregier served as an assistant coach at Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago and head coach at Mendel High School in Chicago, St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Schaumburg High School and Harper College.
Widlowski, along with longtime high school basketball official Fred Allman, nominated Cregier for induction into the coaches hall of fame.
"Any game I worked, any school, any place, any level, if he was there, he made a point of coming by to say hello," Allman said. "And when you think about the stereotypical coach-official relationship, we're looked at as a necessary evil by so many of them. But he was one of the first guys I really feel made me aware of the fact that we have to all be in this together. Coaches and officials have to get along. The game is for the kids."
Widlowski said Cregier had an encyclopedic knowledge of basketball and players enjoyed working with him.
"He stayed composed and he was a great end-of-the game coach," he said. "He saw the court very well and his experience was very useful to us. He had been there and done that in so many different situations."
Allman called him a master of preparation. Among his duties at Fremd was preparing scouting video.
"Bob (Widlowski) told me that he could walk into his office the morning after the previous night's game and the next night's scout tape was already there," Allman said.
Cregier is survived by his wife, Marge, his son, Jonathan Cregier, daughters Nicole (Sean) Connolly and Danielle (Noah) Buerkett, and grandchildren Sloane Buerkett, Nolan Buerkett, Paige Wojcik-Connolly and Jack Connolly.
Visitation will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, at Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral and Cremation Services, 330 W. Golf Road, Schaumburg. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, at Church of the Holy Spirit, 1451 W. Bode Road, Schaumburg.