Retiring Lyons Township High School freshman boys basketball coach Brian Kopecky reflected on 41 seasons with the program often using the same phrase.
“I was the lucky one, really lucky,” Kopecky said. “I was mentored by a lot of guys that knew what they were doing, and all of the guys that I got to coach with. I was the lucky one.”
Colleagues and former players also feel fortunate with the enthusiasm and acquired knowledge of the game Kopecky brought to the sophomore and freshmen levels.
His LTHS coaching legacy will still continue as the boys golf head coach. Kopecky also has coached football (1977-2009) and track and field (1978-2010).
Kopecky was honored before the final LTHS varsity home basketball game Feb. 18. Mark Kropke, who helped to coordinate the ceremony, was Kopecky’s sophomore assistant the past four years and coached football with him.
“There are so many things that make Coach K a great coach and colleague,” Kropke responded. “Coach K’s attention to detail is second to none. His practice plans are designed to utilize every minute and to create competition among the team. He also demands 100 percent effort at all times. His passion for coaching is evident and the athletes play off of his enthusiasm for the sport.”
Kopecky was presented with a framed No. 41 boys basketball jersey, representing his number of seasons with the program.
“One of the coolest things about the jersey is on the tag it says ‘Made in the USA’ so it’s an older one. You don’t find that anymore,” Kopecky said.
The postgame celebration at Salerno’s also was memorable. Kropke said at least 30 former players and coaches stopped by – even opposing coaches. Several attended Kopecky’s final game coaching.
“I always tell our kids, ‘Your dads wish they could be in a locker room,’ because win or lose, it’s special with high school kids,” Kopecky said. “It’s more cool when you win, but there’s life lessons when you lose. That was the beauty about basketball. You could get dusted on Friday and then you’ve got a game on Saturday.”
Kopecky thanked the numerous LT boys basketball coaches along his journey – current head coach Tom Sloan and varsity assistant Jeff Johnson, former varsity head coaches Ron Nikcevich, Dave Ray and Conte Stamas and sophomore and freshmen assistants Brad Nelson, Johnson, Famous Hulbert, Brad Anderson, Brian Hamilton, Paul Krick, Jon Beutjer, Jason Brauer and Kropke.
“I don’t call them assistants. I call them co-coaches,” Kopecky said.
Kopecky still has the basketball fire as evidenced by his breaking down footage of opponents and creating slick and elaborate season-end statistical books for players with help from Dorothy Rotolo at the South Campus resource center.
“I loved going to practice. I’m probably going to miss that more than the games,” Kopecky said.
“I’ve got the passion and energy for basketball, but I’m an old dog. I’m not in the building anymore. I’m probably going to regret it next November, but I’m still going to come to games and do the scorebook for away games. And if they want someone to scout, I’m your guy.”