McCormack, Anstett writing basketball book
Tom Anstett, a former basketball big man, called on an old point guard.
Ahem, Mr. Bob Cousy.
"He still walks and he still tries to answer letters," said Anstett, who has a handwritten letter from the NBA legend, who turns 92 in August.
Ex-Celtic Cousy, who told Anstett he "still has his marbles," published his autobiography after his playing days more than a half-century ago and became head coach at Boston College. Anstett relates on both levels. A member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as both a player (Quigley North) and coach (IC Catholic Prep, Glenbrook North, York, Lincoln-Way Central and East), Anstett arrived at BC as a player in the fall of 1969, the same year Cousy stepped down. He wrote his first book three years ago.
For his second book, which he hopes will be published by the end of this summer, Anstett called on another old point guard.
Ahem, Mr. Tom McCormack.
OK, McCormack's competitive playing career ended after playing on DePaul University's freshman team 50 years ago, but he is one of the most successful boys basketball coaches in Mid-Suburban League history. He served as Conant's head coach for 32 seasons, piling up 576 wins, 13 20-win campaigns and a pair of Elite Eight appearances.
He stepped down at the Hoffman Estates high school in 2017 but has continued to coach. It all began for him as an eighth-grade basketball coach and he has come full-circle, coaching eighth-graders for Conant's feeder team this past season -- his 50th consecutive season of coaching.
"It's been a lot of fun," McCormack said. "It's taken a tremendous amount of understanding from my wife (Mary) and family. It's been a wonderful coaching life."
McCormack's next chapter in life involves actual chapters.
Old friends since when they were young, McCormack, 67, and Anstett, 69, both of whom grew up on Chicago's Northwest side and coached together at both Quigley North and IC Catholic Prep, are co-authoring a book on how to build a high school basketball program. The book's target audience is basketball coaches (mainly high school) of all ages, male or female.
"Tom and I were kicking around the idea for a while, that maybe one day we would put our very average heads together and write a book about coaching," said Anstett, a former English teacher and department chair, who retired from Lincoln-Way School District 210 in 2014. "The (COVID-19) quarantine gave us a lot of time to do that. We've made pretty good progress on it. We've done a lot of FaceTime. Tom has sent me a ton of great stuff. He's one of the best around. He's added considerably to each part. Once we decided on a structure, it just fell into place."
The duo's passion to write has matched their passion to coach and teach. They have progressed on the book rapidly, despite McCormack living in Schaumburg and Anstett residing in Green Bay, so he can be close to his two grandsons, the Bears fan noted.
"A lot of fun and a lot of laughs," McCormack said of the book-writing endeavor.
"We haven't seen anything really like this out there."
The book focuses on the acronym "PROGRAM."
"The essential question," Anstett said, "is, 'Do you want just a good team here and there, or build and sustain a great program?' "
The "P" in PROGRAM stands for preparation.
"That's the longest chapter, by far," Anstett said.
"R" is for resilience, "O" is for off-season, "G" is for guts (at the defensive end of the floor), and the second "R" is for rebounding.
"I wrote most of that chapter," the 6-foot-7 Anstett said with a laugh.
"A" is for attentiveness (the value of listening) and "M" is for mentality.
Anstett and McCormack, who have a collective 92 years of coaching experience, are still discussing the book title.
"I think the book is very rich in detail and in things that can be applied," said Anstett, who served as a head coach at IC Catholic and York. His first book, "Stop Whining; Start Winning," targeted teachers and coaches.
"The other thing we're trying to say," McCormack added, "is, 'A lot of you (coaches) are doing great things already. Keep it up.' It's getting harder and harder for guys to [coach] today. They're getting torn apart by this or that or the other thing, other outside areas where kids can go, like AAU. Not that that's bad. It's just different."
Writing a book has been both educational and a joy for first-time author McCormack.
"He's asked me several times if I ever took English when I was in high school," McCormack joked of Anstett. "This is the master English professor over here."