'Bittersweet moment' as Ambrose steps down as Stevenson coach
The best coaches leave behind not just their wins and losses. But a visual picture as well.
Stevenson's Pat Ambrose had just that.
In a day when coaches are dressed a bit more causally on the high school basketball sidelines, Ambrose cold always been seen in a dress white shirt and tie.
The sidelines will be there. But there will be one less white shirt and tie on it as Ambrose announced on Wednesday that he was stepping down after 24 seasons at the Lincolnshire school.
"It is a bittersweet moment for me," Ambrose said. "It has been full emotion the last couple of days. I have received a lot of wonderful texts and emails. I think it is a preview of my funeral one day."
Ambrose is retiring as a winner. In his 24 seasons, his teams never had a losing season, guiding the Patriots to an astounding record of 505-191.
And all of them are in a white shirt and tie.
"It was my schtick," Ambrose said. "My coaches even asked me this year why I am still wearing that. It is my schtick. I wanted to stick with it because of the games that seemed never to matter much. I wanted them to take all the games seriously. This is a varsity basketball game. In the winter. When we put on the Stevenson uniform. When there is three referees. This one matters."
That kind of attitude propelled the Patriots, especially from 2012-2015. The Patriots had an incredible 91-10 record over those three seasons.
His Jalen Brunson-led team won the state title in 2015, beating Normal 57-40 to finish the season with a record of 30-3. They were third the prior season and second the year before that.
Ambose's 2007 team finished fourth in the state. Along the way, his teams have won 11 regional titles, including this past season. They have also won five sectional titles.
Ambrose has coached 23 players that went on to play college basketball.
That list includes Brunson, who is currently playing for the New York Knicks and is considered one of the top high school players to play in Illinois. Other top players include Connor Cashaw, who played at Creighton, Eric Zalewski who was at Northwestern, Doug Niedrich, who played at Northwestern, Ryuji AAoki, who played at Rose-Hulman and now plays in the Japanes professional league along with Anbrose's sons Evan, who is currently at Augustana and Matt, who plays at Calvin College.
"I have had so many special ones," Ambrose said. "Especially the ones that come back. It just brings you great joy."
Ambrose, who will remain on staff as a social studies teacher, said that the time away from coaching will allow him to watch his sons play college hoops.
"Part of it is that I want to watch them play," Ambrose said. "One is a junior and the other a senior. I just want to be a dad watching them play. But the years come with a lot of wear and tear. The value is a lot to me. They have given me as much in terms of learning and growth."
Stevenson athletic director Tricia Betthauser said that Ambrose's time at Stevenson has been memorable.
"The consistency of being here for the last 24 years speaks for itself," Betthauser said. "You can't underestimate what it means for a high school or a program to be doing this for over 20 years, let alone at one school."
Betthauser said Ambose's style of coaching was what made him so successful.
"He had high expectations and standards for the program," Betthauser said. "If you played on his team for one minute or 32 minutes, you wore that as a badge of honor. And you had a lifetime friend and supporter in Coach Ambrose."