And this is the way it was,
The phone call came each year for 14 years from 1994 until 2006, the day before basketball practice started;
Joe, its Skip, Good Luck to the Hounds!
How’s Rickie McClure doing (Loyola’s tennis coach)
…How’s ‘H’ (my daughter Heather) …what books
are you reading…. a few “Skip-isms”…
And always ended with a thank you for giving him a chance to be a head coach.
Skip spent one year at Loyola 1993-1994, and took a team that had won two games the year before to 17 wins and the only NCAA bid in the school history. Even after 14 years his presence was and still is felt on the Loyola campus by those whose lives where changed by the “happy man” from Pittsburgh. Even after his tremendous success at Xavier and Wake Forest he would come by Loyola and say, “ this is where it all began.” He was Loyola’s Haley’s Comet!
One of his favorite poets, Emerson wrote of the spark within us
‘What lies behind us and what lies before us,
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Skip had the unique ability to lite the “spark” within everyone he met . With his infectious smile, sincerity, matchless sense of humor, genuine interest in everyone he met, he left lifelong friends from Wheeling Central High School, to Loyola, to Xavier, to Wake Forest. He was able to reach into your soul-he cared!
I always felt he was a Renaissance Man coaching college basketball. He was a fresh ocean breeze who saw life as a wonderful adventure He was a voracious reader with interests in history, literature, all things Irish and loved to travel. From Emerson to “Billy” Shakespeare to Bruce Springsteen, his eclectic interests were woven together with his love of teaching and passion for coaching. With his wry humor he was always able to keep things in perspective in a profession where perspective is frequently lacking.
Skip’s core was his family, his sons, Scott, Mark (now the head coach at Brevard College) his mother Laura Jo and his wife Nancy. He spoke with his son’s everyday. The love and affection he had for them was an inspiration for all of us who knew them.
As a coach Skip was a master communicator as shown by his being the only coach to take three different schools to the NCAA tournament in his first year. He understood what was really important in life and transmitted it to his players. He believed in what Emerson said:
"Our chief want in life is somebody
Who shall make us do what we can."
He was a Coach, Teacher and Friend to his players from their first days on campus until his death in 2007. He felt he had a responsibility to challenge them to become the best they could be on and off the court. He was famous for his “Skip-isms” which imparted his beliefs in a humorous way to his players and staff over the years. One was;
If you can’t be on time –be early!
When things were not going well he could use Dickens:
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..”
Or Thomas Paine’s:
“These are the times that try men’s souls…”
I never met anyone, in over five decades in college athletics who hated to lose more than Skip but he usually kept this under control (most of the time!)
It has been almost five years since Skip left us- to soon. For those of us who lives he touched we miss him and college basketball is dimished without him. As one ACC coach said. “Skip was an easy guy to root for”.
The Renaissance Man is gone but he left us with a spark that we carry with us everyday He will be forever young in our minds and hearts.
Some people come into our lives and quickly go
Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts
And we are never, ever the same again.
That was my friend Skip. We will not see his likes again.