Marquette’s ‘Coach’ taught life
To be voted a member of three halls of fame and have another named for him, John Pocivasek certainly knew sports. But the man known as “Coach,” who was involved in Marquette High School athletics for nearly four decades, was remembered after his death for how he coached thousands in the game of life.
“His code was ‘Love your God, love your church, love your family, and love your community with all your heart and soul,'” said Ron Spandet, Marquette principal, who closed the school last Thursday so his students could attend the funeral for Pocivasek, 92, at St. Columba’s Church.
“I wanted them to know John from that perspective,” Spandet told The Catholic Post this week. “I can’t think of a better role model than John Pocivasek.”
Born in Peru and a World War II veteran, Pocivasek coached briefly at St. Bede Academy before joining Marquette as head football and assistant basketball coach in 1951. He would also later coach baseball, track and field, and was athletic director for 33 years.
Spandet called him “revered” in the Ottawa region. Pocivasek was a “legend and an icon,” said Todd Hopkins, current Marquette athletics director. “He truly was what Marquette is all about.”
In 1990, Pocivasek was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. On April 4, he will enter the Illinois High School Football Coaches Assocation Hall of Fame posthumously. He is also a member of the St. Bede Academy Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 1998 Marquette named its own Hall of Fame in Pocivasek’s honor. When the Diocese of Peoria began awarding the Pere Marquette Medal for outstanding service, “Coach” was in the first group of 14 to receive it in 1997.
We join the Ottawa community in mourning his loss, and challenge all who knew “Coach” to continue to play the game of life as he both taught and demonstrated. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post