When the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team won its first sectional title in 2015, I’ll never forget the joyous moment when head coach Tom McCloskey cut down the last string of one of the nets after the Bulldogs’ rousing 66-61 win over Morton.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.
Paul Sitkiewicz, who played forward on that remarkable team which finished 28-4, filed away the same indelible memory.
“When Coach McCloskey cut down the last piece of the net and threw his hands up in the air, I felt so happy for him,” Sitkiewicz said. “I knew he was the person that deserved that moment the most.”
RBHS basketball players, coaches and fans can now celebrate another well-deserved honor for McCloskey.
On April 30, McCloskey was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
His daughter Maggie is a fellow inductee in the 2016 class. She had a prolific career as a sharp-shooting guard at RBHS and Loyola University.
“It’s a great honor that’s even more special because I’m sharing it with Maggie,” McCloskey said. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great players and coaches and a very supportive family.”
McCloskey’s son, Danny, played for him at RBHS and Molly (his other daughter) played basketball and volleyball at RBHS. She also played volleyball at Lake Forest College. And then there’s his wife, Mary Jo, the unsung hero of Team McCloskey.
In 24 years as a head coach (20 at RBHS/4 at Montini), McCloskey has a 425-220 record for a 65.9 winning percentage.
He’s been particularly successful at RBHS with the following achievements: 15 consecutive conference titles, IBCA District Coach of the Year nine times, four regional titles, six Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic Championships and a Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament title.
Working with outstanding assistant coaches Dan Herbeck and Mike Reingruber and a steady pipeline of talented players, RBHS is a perfect fit for McCloskey.
And then, of course, there’s McCloskey’s trademark suspenders.
Reminiscent of my fond childhood memories of Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry wearing a fedora hat, Pat Riley guiding the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers in Armani suits, or even UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian nervously chewing on his towel, I’ll always link McCloskey and his suspenders together like a seamless pick and roll.
McCloskey and the RBHS coaching staff, particularly Reingruber, have also made it fashionable for elite high school teams and players to participate in summer shootouts and tourneys at RBHS. The home of the Bulldogs has become a hoops hotbed each summer.
McCloskey’s passion for basketball is a given.
“The idea of coaching kind of hit me in college,” McCloskey said. “I decided it was something I really wanted to do and went full steam ahead.”
And with apologies to Allen Iverson, the best part of McCloskey’s job occurs well before tip-off.
“I really enjoy practice,” he said. “I think it’s great when you have a really good week of practice and everybody is on the same page. Then the players execute during a game what we talked about all week. You never stop learning.”