On Swanee's night, Stevenson defeats Prospect
Kathy Swan knows her husband well.
While being honored at halftime of Stevenson's boys basketball game against visiting Prospect on Saturday, Paul Swan was presented with, what else, a sweater vest, which is what he wears to pretty much every Stevenson game.
This one was special, though, hand made by Kathy and decorated with Stevenson logos and references to the Stevenson football, basketball and baseball teams.
"People make fun of me for wearing sweater vests, but I don't care," Paul Swan said with a laugh. "I've been wearing them for years."
And years, and years and years.
Stealing the spotlight from Stevenson's 53-45 nonconference victory over Prospect was good ol' "Swanee." He was being honored for his 50, yes 50, years of coaching at Stevenson High School. He had a short stint as head coach of the baseball team in the early 1970s but has spent the rest of his years and years on staff as an assistant coach for the football, basketball and baseball teams.
Before the game, more than 150 of Swan's family members, friends, fellow teachers and coaches and, of course, former players, attended a benefit dinner on his behalf. Many of them then attended the basketball game and watched as Swan was honored at halftime with not only the iconic sweater vest but also a video played on Stevenson's scoreboard of various friends and colleagues saluting Swan with personal tributes. There were also many old pictures shown of Swan with his various teams over the years.
"This was incredible," Swan said. "Just crazy. It was awesome, and the team getting a win tonight just finished it off."
Stevenson, which improved to 8-2 on the season, had a big third quarter behind hot shooting from senior guard Luke Chieng to extend a 4-point halftime lead (26-22) to 10 points heading into the fourth quarter. Chieng had 10 points, including two 3-pointers in the third quarter. He finished with a game-high 22 points on a total of four 3-pointers.
Chieng remembers how welcoming Swan was to him when he was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore.
"He had all these nicknames for me, like Luke-y," Chieng said with a smile. "To be a part of this day was very special to me and special to all of us on the team because it's not very often that you get to be around a coach who has been around for so long, influencing so many lives.
"Swanee was someone who really welcomed me in. He made me feel so much more comfortable with the older guys. He's such a great role model."
Prospect coach John Camardella would agree with that. He has known Swan for years, having coached summer camps with him.
"I know Paul extremely well," said Camardella, whose team drops to 5-5 on the season. "I'm pretty close with the entire Stevenson staff and Paul is a guy who has given me a ton of advice as a coach. He's pulled me aside with words of encouragement. Win or lose, he is a model of integrity and character and it trickles down to all of the players at Stevenson and to other coaches in the area."
Prospect was led in scoring by Benjamin Zellmer, who pushed the Knights to a big first quarter by hitting two 3-pointers. Prospect had a total of four 3-pointers in the first quarter alone and had a 1-point lead (14-13) heading into the second quarter.
Benjamin Miller was the only other player in double-figures for Prospect with 11 points
The only other player besides Chieng to reach double-figures for Stevenson was Matthew Kaznikov. He also had 11 points.
Stevenson, which was outscored 10-8 in the fourth quarter but had enough cushion to weather it, dribbled out the final seconds of the clock to the rowdy student section chanting, "We have Swanee!"