Ode To Hank

It has been 18 years since Al McGuire left us for the dancing lights. Since then numerous members of the Marquette basketball family have passed on, including Bob Lackey, Larry McNeill, Pat Smith, Goran Raspudic, Maurice Lucas, Jay Whitehead, Gary Rosenberger, Bob Dukiet, Terry Rand, Dick Nixon, Marc Marotta, Ron Curry, Greg “The Pope” Johnson, Rick Majerus and Coach Hank Raymonds, who quietly passed away at age 86, on Dec. 6, 2010, after a tough fight with cancer.

Marquette has been gradually losing the touchstones to its glorious championship past. “Coach,” as his widow Jinny always called him, was Marquette University’s ambassador-at-large – not just for basketball but for all things Marquette. The championship flame burned so brightly in Coach Raymonds that we were naturally drawn to him.

We wanted to feel that aura and hear those glory days stories of yesteryear. He embraced fans, players, coaches, students and even basketball campers. In his quiet way, Coach reached out and touched those around him. He was our connection to Marquette’s past, present and future because he never left Marquette or Milwaukee after his coaching and athletic director careers ended. Coach was, in effect, a Marquette lifer.

I was fortunate enough to be one of those on the receiving end of Coach’s generosity. Over the course of my journalism career, I always felt comfortable calling Coach for information on various stories and books that I was working on about Marquette basketball. As he did years earlier during my undergraduate days, Coach welcomed me to his home for interviews and always returned my phone calls.

Jinny always graciously prepared lunch for us, and I will never forget the hospitality Coach and Jinny showed me. As Coach recounted stories of MU’s championship seasons, he would become more animated, recalling incidents with players, coaches and referees. He always made me feel like I was a part of something special. In his own way, he was helping me chronicle the legacy of the Marquette basketball family that he did so much to help build. Coach also was kind enough to write the dust cover notes for my second book “Goin’ Uptown: Marquette’s March to Madness and Return to the Final Four” and speak at the book’s launch in the Raynor Memorial Library in 2003.

I first learned about the importance of the Marquette family from Coach Raymonds in the summer of 1979, between my junior and senior years at Marquette. I was working on a story about his recruiting efforts for the Summer Marquette Tribune. Up to that point, I had never met Coach. I did a phone interview with him the previous fall after Artie Green’s arrival in Milwaukee for a story that appeared in the Marquette Tribune.

Coach invited me to his office at the old 1212 Building on Wisconsin Avenue to conduct the one-on-one interview. As I entered the office I noticed a rectangular sign above the door that read: “Have Fun. Play Hard,” which was his lifetime credo. “C’mon in Joey,” was Coach’s gregarious greeting as he sandwiched by hand in both of his. He then introduced me to Rick Majerus, who welcomed me to Marquette. Both coaches made me feel at home, which helped alleviate any pre-interview jitters I may have felt at the time.

Since he knew that I was from the Chicago area, Coach asked if I knew anyone in Waukegan, Illinois. I mentioned the name Jack Conarchy, a family friend affiliated with Immaculate Conception Church in the city.

“You know Waukegan Jack!” he said with surprise. “I stood up at his wedding at the Christian Brothers College in Memphis, Tennessee.” Before I knew it, Coach began showing me photo albums from his days at CBC and St. Louis University, greatly enjoying the reminiscence. That connection was the beginning of my relationship with Hank Raymonds.

When we finally did get down to the interview, Coach related stories about recruiting Rod Foster, Sam Bowie and Ralph Sampson and how MU was in the mix for those players, but could get no closer than being one of the final six schools. While Coach was disappointed, he was happy that MU was still being considered by these highly recruited players. Win or lose, Hank Raymonds was always a happy warrior.

Before coming to Milwaukee, Raymonds already was a winner. A standout in basketball, baseball and football, he was the first four-year basketball letter winner at St. Louis University and helped Coach Eddie Hickey win the 1948 National Invitation Tournament at a time when the NIT was a bigger deal than the NCAA Tournament.

As head coach at Christian Brothers College, Raymonds posted a 110-50 record from 1955-61 at the NAIA school, winning three District 27 titles in the process. Eventually, he followed Hickey to Marquette, where he served as an assistant to the “Little General” until Hickey’s firing in 1964.

Raymonds was considered for the top job that eventually went to Al McGuire. He accepted McGuire’s invitation to stay as his top assistant. “‘We’ll knock ’em dead,'” Raymonds recalled McGuire telling him at the time.

As coach of the freshman team, Coach Raymonds put his Xs and Os and education degree to work, making sure the team was disciplined and sound in the fundamentals of the game. Raymonds was a teacher and a straight shooter – with everyone – and believed in making the most out of practice. Hank was the guy whose job it was to find the devil in the details, even though he was educated by the Jesuits and stuck with them at MU. He was happy to make his important contributions behind the scenes and let Coach Al work the banquet circuit, the media and publicly take bows for the success of the basketball program.

But Coach Al knew how important Raymonds was to the team’s success, and stated so many times during and after his coaching career. In fact, he referred to Raymonds as his “co-coach.” Hank did enjoy ribbing McGuire about the fact that his CBC team defeated Al’s Belmont Abbey Crusaders in the only game the teams played against each other back in their formative days as young coaches.

For many of the young men he coached, Raymonds was like a second father. And, in some cases, the only father. It was at this juncture in his career that he began cultivating relationships with his players that eventually lasted a lifetime. He endeared himself to the players by genuinely caring about their futures after basketball. He made sure they attended class and earned their degrees.

He kept after the players, even after they left MU. He made it his charge. When they needed help with anything in their lives, he was there. It was Hank who stayed in touch. It was Hank who started what turned into the Marquette family legacy. He imparted his wisdom of life on and off the basketball court to the campers that he taught at the old Medalist and Marquette basketball campus, in addition to his 14 grandchildren

After 13 years as an assistant, Coach Raymonds’ patience paid off after Marquette’s first and only National Championship in 1977, when he was named the 10th basketball coach in school history, finally stepping out of the shadow of Al McGuire. Patience was just one of Coach’s many virtues. He was a humble man, strong in his Catholic faith and a very good teacher. The role of emcee, which Al so often used to describe his manner of running the basketball program, did not fit Hank well. His wardrobe never really changed that much either when he became head coach. He still favored the plaid couture of his coaching brethren. And he always found teaching moments during games, putting a reassuring arm around the shoulder of a player and pointing with his ever-present, rolled-up game program before sending the player back onto the court.

Beginning with his first season as head coach (1977-78), Raymonds hit the ground running. He kept Marquette’s basketball ship of state rolling right along. The Warriors compiled an impressive 24-4 mark en route to finishing No. 3 in the United Press International (UPI) poll and No. 8 in the Associated Press poll. It was during MU’s run to the NCAA Tournament that I first heard some of the players talk about the Marquette family, and how Coach had inculcated that value in the team. The program did not skip a beat in the transition from Al to Hank, as the team won 16 of 17 games during one stretch that season.

During my junior and senior years at Marquette, I watched the “Maestro of the Mecca” choreograph the middle years of his six straight winning seasons. Coach won over 71 percent of his games (126-50) and brought the Warriors to postseason appearances every one of those years (five NCAA and one NIT). He coached five All-Americas, and 16 of his players were drafted into the NBA. I will always remember the rolled-up program and how Coach would occasionally slam it to the floor when something did not go the Warriors’ way, showing his competitive side. The tighter the game, the tighter Coach would roll that program in his fist.

During the 1978-79 season, the Warriors finished a solid 22-7 and No. 10 in the country, according to that season’s final Associated Press poll. That was Coach’s only team that advanced as far as the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

MU posted some big wins against big-time schools during the Raymonds Era, including Duke at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, at Notre Dame (both during the 1979-80 season) and at Missouri, which Coach called his biggest win.

One of the most memorable wins was triggered by freshman Glenn “Doc” Rivers, one of the most sought after players in the country out of Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois. Before a frenzied Mecca crowd, Rivers launched a prayer of a shot that banked in off the glass backboard to defeat Digger Phelps’s Fighting Irish as time expired in 1981. It is still referred to as “The Shot Heard Round Milwaukee.”

Early in the 1982-83 campaign, Coach announced that he would retire at the end of the season and hand the coaching reins to his assistant Majerus. Coach decided he would concentrate full time on his athletic director responsibilities.

That season, Coach enjoyed one of the most satisfying triumphs when the Warriors headed to Columbia, Missouri, to face All-America Jon Sundvold and the Missouri Tigers. It was a homecoming of sorts for Raymonds who had starred at St. Louis University. Family members, including his wife Jinny, their two daughters and Coach’s 79-year-old mother were all in attendance.

Toward the end of regulation, Marquette was down four when Terry Reason scored to narrow the Tigers’ lead to 53-51, with just eight seconds left. Coach called time out.

When play resumed, Reason fouled one of the Tigers, who were in the bonus. The Missouri player missed the front end of the one-and-one. Mandy Johnson secured the rebound and passed to Dwayne Johnson at half court. Johnson took two dribbles and swished a 10-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Four Mandy Johnson free throws secured the upset win in overtime 60-59.

Marquette fans, including Coach’s family members, stormed the court to celebrate the upset. Afterward, an exuberant and relieved Coach described the win as better than winning the NCAA Championship in 1977.

After the Warriors completed a successful 19-9 season, Coach anxiously awaited the call from the NCAA Tournament Committee. When MU received the bid, Coach blurted out, “Thank God,” and smiled broadly.
Everyone was happy for Coach as he approached his farewell tournament.

Even though MU lost a heartbreaker to Tennessee 57-56, Coach went out his way, still the Happy Warrior.

During his tenure as athletic director, Coach always kept the door open for former players, bringing them back for reunions, old-timer games and other events, and introducing them to the new kids on the block of the succeeding MU coaches. The former players helped pass on Coach’s life lessons to the new generation of players, especially on life after basketball. Coach’s role as athletic director allowed him to open up the Marquette family to other student-athletes on campus by providing scholarship opportunities for women’s sports programs and elevating those programs to Division I status. All the while, Coach was extending the great legacy he had started years before.

The more Coach gave of himself, the greater that his stature grew. But he never changed. He treated everyone well, regardless of their station in life. Even as Marquette’s elder statesman, he still referred to himself as “Just an old coach,” which he always wrote at the bottom of the Christmas cards he sent to our family every year.

And as he was with his players, Coach was always there with advice and encouragement for all of the coaches who followed him: Majerus, Dukiet, Kevin O’Neill, Mike Deane, Tom Crean and Buzz Williams. Hank was also there for Rivers as he navigated his own coaching career in the NBA. He was even there for opposing coaches, such as UWM’s Rob Jeter. Coach’s hug of Jeter prior to an MU-UWM game shortly after the passing of Jeter’s father, former Green Bay Packer great Bob Jeter, was fondly remembered by those who attended the game at the Bradley Center. The gesture brought to mind one of the highest compliments that Coach had received from his peers: Christian gentleman.

Clad in his familiar gold sweater, Coach could always be seen at his regular spot at the scorer’s table for MU games, offering a graduate class in basketball to those sitting near him.

Coach was not just a fan of Marquette men’s basketball, but all of MU sports. He and Jinny were regulars at the women’s games at the McGuire Center, in addition to MU soccer matches and other sports events on campus. Always chatting, glad-handing and sharing stories, touching all of the members of the Marquette family in his inimitable way, and somehow always remembering names and faces.

Even with all of the hall of fame honors he received during his lifetime (M Club, Wisconsin Athletic Association, Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, St. Louis University, St. Louis Sports, CBC, etc.), probably the greatest honor bestowed on Coach was having a scholarship endowed in his name. The Hank Raymonds Scholarship Fund dinners allowed Coach and his family to continue to give back to the Marquette community, even after he had officially retired as athletic director in 1987. It allowed him to give his greatest gift: unconditional love. He always gave the full measure in his life, whether it was time, money, advice or good wishes, and never expected anything in return. Upon his retirement, the university gave him a check for $10,000. He returned the check and requested that it be used to fund scholarships at MU. As it turned out, that $10,000 was the initial seed money for what eventually became Marquette University’s Blue & Gold Fund.

The Marquette family did get a chance to finally give back to Coach Raymonds. After beginning his fight with cancer, friends, fans, players and coaches began sending cards, letters and making get-well phone calls and visits to his Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, home. Close friends, like Majerus, were regular visitors during the last year of Coach’s life. Jinny and the five Raymonds children responded to all of the good wishes by saying that Coach was determined to fight the good fight. And he did, like the true Warrior that he was.

Before Coach began his treatment regimen, he wrote an open letter to the former Marquette basketball players, thanking them for their loyalty and love of the game of basketball, their teammates and the university. He reminded them of how they were always Warriors on the court and in the classroom, and to be proud of it.

Later that summer, many of those former players Coach had helped during his lifetime came back to the McGuire Center and had a group picture taken, featuring Coach Raymonds, front and center. All returned to show him the love and appreciation for what he meant to their lives.

After Coach left his home for the Zilber Family Hospice in Wauwatosa, the visits continued with family members, players and close friends, including then-Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, who spent time with Coach the Friday before he died.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, the day after Coach’s passing, Marquette was scheduled to play the University of Texas-Corpus Christi at the Bradley Center. A short tribute preceded the game, at which some fans in attendance remarked that it was so quiet they could have heard a pin drop on the floor of the Al McGuire Court. The gold HANK patch was positioned on the front of the MU players’ jerseys near the AL patch, which Marquette teams have worn since Al McGuire’s passing in 2001. And Coach’s seat at the scorer’s table was conspicuously empty, as it had been during his illness

Hundreds of members of the Marquette family braved the cold December winds to say their goodbyes at his wake in Brookfield, Wisconsin, on Sunday, Dec. 12. The line of mourners snaked around the interior of the Becker-Ritter Funeral Home, past photos, mementos, basketballs, posters and plaques. One item in particular that stood out for a number of the mourners was a framed handwritten letter from Coach to one of his grandsons on the correct way to shoot a basketball, featuring step-by-step instructions. The strategically placed television monitors featured photos from Coach’s personal and professional lives. Coach’s life was flashing before our eyes.

Before a private interment, Coach’s life was celebrated the next day at Milwaukee’s Gesu Church. His coffin, draped with a Marquette Warriors banner, was carried into the church by Rivers, Jim Mcllvaine, Robert Byrd, Terry Sanders, Mike Kinsella and, representing the McGuire family, Allie McGuire.

The funeral mass was concelebrated by longtime Marquette team chaplain Rev. William J. Kelly, MU President Rev. Robert Wild and Rev. Peter Drenzek, pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Coach’s parish in Wauwatosa. Coach’s sons, Dan and Steve, chronicled his life before and after Marquette.

Men’s and women’s basketball coaches Buzz Williams and Terri Mitchell, who attended along with their respective staffs, were among those paying their final respects. Many of the 50-plus players who attended were among those Continuing the Legacy, which just so happened to be the theme of the 2010-11 basketball season.

It was Byrd who gave the final tribute to Coach Raymonds, whose life as an example for all of us. Byrd concluded his emotional tribute with: “We will always be Warriors.”

One of the last times I saw Coach was in Milwaukee at the funeral of Goran Raspudic, Marquette’s team manager from 1966-70. Coach’s admonition after the service has stayed with me ever since.

“Joey, always remember family. They’re all you have.”

Joseph Declan Moran, author/publisher
JDM Press
Arlington Heights, IL
February 2019

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