Retiring Streamwood coach Rosner made 'Beautiful Noise" for 40-plus years
If you've ever been to a Streamwood girls basketball game, then you know that Sabres' coach George Rosner is a big fan of iconic musician Neil Diamond.
Rosner blares Diamond music during every practice -- and even at games now and then -- and has been for 40-plus years.
His favorite Diamond song and album is Beautiful Noise, which was released in June of 1976. On a Zoom call earlier this week, Rosner showed me the original album cover, and by original, I mean vinyl and not a CD.
Rosner is retiring from coaching at the end of the Sabres' season, which could come as early as Monday when his team faces top-seeded Barrington in the semifinals of the Class 4A Barrington regional.
A graduate of St. Ignatius Prep and Northeastern Illinois University, Rosner's coaching career began at St. Monica grade school in 1973.
"I coached softball and then the second year I was there, the boys basketball coach came to me and said we were going to get kicked out of the conference if we didn't have a girls basketball team," Rosner recalled. "A lady named Bernadette Shields (mother of longtime boys basketball coach Tom Shields) said I'll do it if you do it."
And Rosner's girls basketball coaching career was born. One year, he coached both a boys team at Our Lady of Victory, and his girls team at St. Monica, a total of 90 games by his count.
"My very first game, Patty Griffin scored the first basket, made a free throw and we were up 3-0. I thought 'Hey, I got this,' " Rosner said. "We lost that game 39-3.
"But the last year (at St. Monica), we won 47 games, won the city championship and we were featured on ABC 7 by Tim Weigel.
Then, in 1979, longtime boys basketball coach and Elgin resident Tom Yore was leaving Weber for a new school in District U-46 -- Streamwood.
"Tom needed some assistant coaches and there was a social studies opening (at Streamwood), Rosner said. "I left the grade school reluctantly and came to Streamwood, where I was the assistant sophomore boys coach under Kerry Sund, and Tom used me as his scout. I learned a ton of basketball from doing that."
In 1980, the school's first Streamwood girls coach, Sue McIntyre, became a counselor and had to give up coaching, Rosner said.
"The AD, Roger Smith, came to me and asked if I'd be interested in coaching the girls' team, " Rosner said. "It was rough. The first year we won two games, then four, then six."
The 1983-84 season produced Streamwood's first winning season (13-12), and began a run of eight-straight winning seasons, a stretch that included four-straight regional titles and, in1988, a 26-4 campaign that ended with a 52-49 loss to York in the Class AA Batavia supersectional.
That team included Donna Groh, probably the best girls basketball player ever at Streamwood who went on to play at Northwestern, and Renee Kanak, still the program's all-time leading scorer.
"And then I had this little girl named Chris Francke," said Rosner who has kept a comprehensive book as well as scorebooks from every team he's coached back to 1973. "She ended up being an all-state player."
Francke went on to play at DePaul for Doug Bruno, one of the greatest influences in Rosner's career. Rosner worked Bruno's summer camps for 20-plus years, a time when he coached a player from Elk Grove named Babbi Barriero, now the longtime Barrington coach who Rosner will coach against on Monday.
The lean years followed after 1988 and not until 2013 did the Sabres win another regional title (their last regional title season was in 2017.
"That one (in 2013) really renewed me," said Rosner, who retired from teaching in 2012 and who will retire from an IBCA Hall of Fame career with over 400 wins. "I really thought about giving it up after a couple of bad years in the 2000s, but I stayed on. We had players like Emma Schmitt, Michelle Tomczak and Jessica Cerda come in and we were pretty tough again.
"But now I have two grandchildren I didn't have a year and a half ago. I'm 70, and it's just time. I'm glad I stayed with it and I'll absolutely miss it."
Rosner is quick to credit his wife, Kathy, and their sons, George Jr., and Joey, for their support. He also has a short list of coaches who influenced his career, and who he had some great battles with.
"Tom Yore, Doug Bruno, Will Rey, Derril Kipp and the original group of coaches in the Upstate Eight," Rosner said. "Lee Turek at Elgin ... man, we had some battles. We ended their season several times, and they ended ours. We also had some good battles with Denise (Sarna), when she was at Bartlett."
Now, in the twilight of his career, Rosner leaves with many fond memories but also some bitterness over the school dedicating the gym as Rosner Arena in December, only for that not to be honored by U-46 administration due to an obscure policy that doesn't allow anything to be named after someone while they're still alive, Rosner said. Thus, Rosner Arena, after widespread media coverage, is no more.
"It was good, positive publicity for Streamwood, which has had a lot of negativity over the years," said Rosner, who cited the night the gym was dedicated to him as, "one of the greatest nights ever."
"What hurt me the most was knowing there was a compromise in place to leave it up for the season and that was turned down. Maybe it wasn't done perfectly but it could have been left up for the season. Am I bitter? Yes. Am I hurt? Yes. But they can't take that night away and the positives of that night will never be forgotten"
Nor will the Beautiful Noise Rosner has emulated for more than 40 years.