Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Special Relationship(s) - The Heat's Dwayne Wade and Coach Jack Fitzgerald

Dwayne Wade is a Superstar athlete - one of the giants of the NBA. Jack Fitzgerald is a high school and small college basketball coach - a legendary journeyman mentor who graduated from Leo High School in 1969, returned his alma mater and learned the craft from Tom O'Malley. Tom O'Malley was one of Jimmy Arneberg's boys. Arne was coached by Brother Francis Finch and the great Vince Dowd.

This is a Leo chain of being.

Dwayne Wade never attended Leo High School but he was mentored and coached by Jack Fitzgerald at Richards High School.

Dwayne Wade understood that he was helped by a man who understands not only the game, but the reasons put everything, heart, mind and body into any effort.

Dan McGrath wrote another wonderful portrait of two men brought together by a spirit much larger than their ambitions and wants. Click my post title for the full New York Times story.

Any of us who have watched our children play sports or tiptoe through a dance recital or blow the fluegelhorn in a concert could empathize with Jack Fitzgerald on Tuesday.

He viewed the Game 4 telecast of the Bulls-Miami Heat Eastern Conference playoff finals from a quiet table in a South Side pub, and a nosy reporter tried to be unobtrusive as Fitzgerald agonized. Dwyane Wade is not his son, but Fitzgerald has paternalistic feelings for the Heat’s All-Star guard, the best player and one of the best kids he worked with during 27 years and 444 victories as a high school coach in the Chicago area.

“It’s hard to watch,” Fitzgerald said. “I get a little pit in my stomach, the same way I did when I was coaching.”

The pit felt like a bowling ball on this night as Wade struggled, missing seven straight shots at one point, including an uncontested breakaway dunk.

“He’s just not in the flow,” Fitzgerald said quietly, his stoic demeanor concealing his inner turmoil.

Jack Fitzgerald would never admit to being a great man and that is his greatness. Jack Fitzgerald helped Dwayne Wade become the fine young man he is, even though he is an NBA Superstar. The hands that help are guided by a spirit of very old and willing hands going back generations.

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