Beyond the Bench Award: Bartlett's Brad Hunt
Bartlett made it through a trying school year, doing it without beloved coach Brad Hunt.
It wasn't easy on anyone. Certainly not his basketball players like Lexie Sinclair.
"We know he's still looking down on us," Sinclair said after their season opener. "He's just coaching us from a different place instead of on the court."
On June 4, 2019, Hunt had returned to his South Elgin home from a basketball camp. He was mowing his yard when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Hunt, 43, was a beloved member of the school, known for his attention to detail and hard work as a coach, and his dedication to making life better for all his students. Also a physical education teacher and assistant softball coach, Hunt and his wife Emily have two children, Brady and Madison.
Without Hunt, assistant coach Joe Eirich took over and the Hawks went 24-9, never forgetting their former coach who is this year's winner of the Daily Herald Prep Sports Excellence Beyond the Bench Award.
"It's hard to believe it's been a year," Bartlett athletic director Jeff Bral said. "It was an emotional roller coaster year. I've got to give a lot of credit to Joe Eirich. He bared a lot of emotion that he hid well. Brad was a good friend of his and to step up in that moment of tragedy was good. He did everything he could for those kids."
Bral, who knew Hunt as a colleague before becoming his boss, said he will never forget where he was or what he was doing when he heard the news.
"Words are difficult to describe moments like that," Bral said. "It's hard to put into words what a person means to a school, a program, his family."
Raised in West Lafayette, Ind., and a proud Purdue graduate, Hunt spent 15 years at Bartlett and coached several sports in some capacity for all of those 15 years.
After years assisting Denise Sarna including Bartlett's 2012 team that took third in state, Hunt became head coach for the 2017-18 season. He was the head coach for two years, winning the Upstate Eight Conference both seasons with a 29-5, regional championship season in 2018-19.
"Brad was a guy who was a great coach, he knew everything about the game of basketball," Bral said. "He was passionate about it. That carried over to his family at home. He never settled for anything but the best. His master program he had to get As. Had to make sure everything was in line."
Hunt was a tireless worker as a coach, always out at games scouting opponents. Also devoted to his family, Emily Hunt said Brad often would bring his kids.
"I think if he hadn't had me and the kids at home waiting for him, he would have been in a gym all of the time," Emily Hunt said. "He began balancing life by taking the kids with him to scout. Great memories for the kids. He loved the game and wanted to continue to learn."
Bartlett honored Hunt before its home opener against Fenton and another one of Hunt's friends Dave Mello, the Bison's coach. One of Hunt's players, Mackenzie Hare, set a school record on that emotional night with 43 points.
"We just wanted to show him what we have and how much we've improved," Hare said. "We definitely think about him every day."
Other Upstate Eight schools also held moments of silence before games. Bral thanked the South Elgin team for attending Hunt's memorial.
It was easy to see how loved Hunt was, how much he is missed, and how the impact of his life lives on in his players, co-workers and family.
"I miss the guy dearly," Bral said. "He and I worked hard on a lot of things. He was passionate about everything he did. Sometimes you feel a little shorted because there was so much to come."