Baranek: Honors time for Mike O’Neill, John D’Ambrosio and Allie Quigley
By Tony Baranek email@example.com September 1, 2014 8:46PM
Former Bremen coach John D'Ambrosio (left) and former Andrew coach Mike O'Neill stand together before both were honored before Friday night's opening night football game at Bremen. | Tom Nealon/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 2, 2014 2:12AM
Let’s talk about honors and a few special people who earned some over the past week or so.
Friday night, Andrew and host Bremen brought back two of the schools’ most decorated coaches: Andrew’s Mike O’Neill and Bremen’s John D’Ambrosio. Between them, they coached at their respective schools for a combined 42 years, won 248 games and took 23 teams to the state playoffs.
Before taking the job at Andrew in 1986, O’Neill already was a local legend because of his success at St. Laurence. After leaving Bremen after the 2003 season, D’Ambrosio went on to another successful career as a quarterbacks coach at St. Xavier.
They both were told they were going to be on the field Friday for the pregame coin toss. But there was more.
Each had several members of their families at their side as they received game jerseys from each school, along with a commemorative coin — and, of course, cheers from opening night football fans.
It might have been a tad more special for D’Ambrosio, considering the ceremony was on the field he had brought Bremen to its greatest football glory.
“I’ll never forget my Bremen days,” D’Ambrosio said. “We had some really fine teams here. We just couldn’t get past that second and third round.
“I still have some videos from some of our highlight seasons that I watch — when I can find a VCR.”
The highest of highs for Bremen under D’Ambrosio were state quarterfinal appearances in 1990 and ’95. D’Ambrosio is a member of the IHSA Hall of Fame in both football and wrestling. He earned a championship ring when St. Xavier won the NAIA national title in 2011.
O’Neill was hired at Andrew in 1986 after a successful eight-year career at St. Laurence, where his teams compiled a .709 winning percentage, including a two-year run in which they were 22-3. He started out as an assistant at Leo, where his father, Bill, was head coach.
“Leo was what really did it for me, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s,” O’Neill said. “It got me knowing this was probably what I was wanted to do, coach and teach for a long time.”
Andrew hadn’t had a winning season before O’Neill was hired. It took just two years to right the ship and get it sailing into the playoffs on a regular basis.
“I knew I was taking a bit of a chance, but I also knew Andrew was going to be good,” O’Neill said. “I knew we’d get good numbers. A lot of former South Side people moved out there and brought that good work ethic with them. It worked out very well.”
Another recent honoree was former Joliet Catholic and DePaul basketball star and current Sky player Allie Quigley, who Aug. 24 was named the 2014 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year.
More recognition came her way over the weekend when she was an inaugural inductee into Joliet Catholic’s Hall of Champions.
Quigley came off the bench all season for the Sky, leading the team in scoring nine times and scoring in double figures 21 times. She was accorded the award in a vote among national media, garnering a whopping 26 votes. The three players behind her totaled 12.
“It was definitely humbling, the numbers,” Quigley said. “But winning and making the playoffs made it that much more special. Without that, it would have been a little empty at the end of the day.”
Quigley is in her sixth season in the WNBA. She never has been a regular, but this season her role as an off-the-bench force was a defined one by Sky coach Pokey Chatman.
“We talked about me being a bench leader, talking to everybody on the bench and be one of the energy people when I got into the game,” Quigley said.
“I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve been doing that all my career in the WNBA. I wasn’t expecting anything more, I just wanted to make an impact.”