As the basketball season draws to a close, Bradley fans have to be wondering about the future of the sport on the Hilltop. Yes, this past season under coach Brian Wardle was better than the year before, but it was still a stinker and far from what it was when Jim Les was in charge with Ken Kavanagh as athletic director. Unfortunately, the university, in essence, told them to get lost.
Both men left Bradley, but they didn’t get lost. Jim Les went to the University of California at Davis where he turned a struggling basketball program into a huge success, winning the conference twice. This past season he won the Big West Conference tournament and went to the NCAA for the first time in the school’s history. The Aggies also never lost a home game during the season. Ken Kavanagh wound up at Florida Gulf Coast as Athletic Director in Fort Meyers. For the second time during his tenure, the Eagles earned a visit to the “Big Dance,” losing to Florida State, one of the country’s top teams, 86-80. The women’s basketball team also earned a trip to the NCAA tournament.
To be sure, both Les and Kavanagh landed on their feet after errors in judgment by former president Joann Glasser. I thought, what if both men had remained at Bradley? Just think, Tyler Les, the son of coach Les, would be sinking 3-point shots with regularity to the excitement of fans at the Civic Center. He set a team record by sinking nine 3-point shots in a game against Hawaii and was ranked as the second best 3-point shooter in the nation in his final year with UC Davis. Also in the Bradley lineup would be Corey Hawkins, son of Bradley and NBA great, Hersey Hawkins. Corey was named Player of the Year in the Big West in 2015 after averaging 21 points a game. With Corey and Tyler and other top recruits, the seats would be packed with cheering and excited fans at the Civic Center instead of the now usual 4,500. Yes, what if? But, hey, there’s always next year.
You lost. Get over It.
No one likes to lose. I’m sure Hillary Clinton will never get over losing to, of all people, Donald Trump. That’s why I sympathize with Amr Elsamny. New to the political process, he’s having a hard time accepting the fact, and it is a fact, that he lost by one vote to Robert Hanauer for the final spot on the ballot for one of Peoria’s at-large city council seats. He called for and paid for a discovery recount that changed nothing. Nothing. The result was the same. He lost. He also went to the courts claiming the Election Commission lost a voter’s ballot and that ballot gave him two votes, thus he should be declared the winner of the fourth nomination. That’s like the Cubs in 1958 winding up in last place claiming they deserved to be in fourth place. Amr placed last in a five candidate race. Get over it. You lost.
St. Patrick’s Day
Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone and once again the crew of “Breakfast with Roger and Friends” on FM 90.7 celebrated in Irish fashion by talking with our friends in Peoria’s sister city, Clonmel, Ireland. For more than five years, it’s been a tradition to call Carey’s Bar in Clonmel to talk with owner Mike Carey and others like former Mayor Vera Hewitt and Ted Boyle. West Peoria Mayor Jim Dillon, Bobby Spears, and brother, Jimmy, started the celebration two days earlier on our show by talking about their planned trip to Clonmel at the end of March with about 45 others. Joining us St. Patrick’s Day was Molly Crusen who described how she was among the first group of Irish dancers formed in Peoria when she was just 9 years old.
Harry, a great American!
I want to close my column this month by paying tribute to one of Peoria’s great icons, Harry Whitaker. We lived in Wardcliffe for around 35 years just two houses from Harry, his wife, Arlene, and sons Gary and Danny. However, Harry and the Monroe family, including my brother, Zack, were well-acquainted long before becoming neighbors. Harry graduated from Woodruff, but it was his mother who accepted his high school diploma. Harry was gone. He had joined the Navy before graduation ceremonies. It was, after all, World War II. After basic training, Harry was assigned to a mine sweeper in the South Pacific. It was dangerous enough just being part of a crew that spotted and blew up enemy mines. He made it even more exciting by getting swept overboard along with another sailor who out-ranked him. I mention that because Harry complained they rescued the other guy first. He wasn’t happy about that. When he returned, he went to Bradley, graduated and entered education as teacher. If you’ve lived in Peoria, you know his rise from teacher, to coach, to principal, to Superintendent of District 150. A man of high values and principles, Harry ran our public school system like no one had or has. He was a man of no drink, no smoke, no swear and no nonsense. Still is. Strong of faith and spirit, he led District 150 through some turbulent times, but did not, and would not, waiver from his values.
A great American, he’s a good friend.
Quote of the Month
“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.” —Charles R. Swindoll