Coach To Retire After 52 Years And More Than 1,000 Wins

Bernie Tafoya
February 13, 2019 - 2:02 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- One of the few basketball coaches in Illinois, whose teams have totaled more than 1,000 wins in his career, coaches his final regular season home game on Wednesday night.

Bob Hallberg has been coaching for more than 52 years. He started coaching in 1966, heading the boys' basketball team at Kennedy High School. He now coaches the women’s team at St. Xavier University. In between, he coached the men's basketball teams at St. Xavier, University of Illinois-Chicago and Chicago State University.

Hallberg did not have any plans of retiring this year, thinking "I might be able to go to 90." But, he said, he was recently diagnosed with liver cancer and will be "retiring early."

"I need to step aside and put my health as a priority," he said. 

Hallberg said he takes with him the memory of coaching so many outstanding young men and women, including Sherell Ford, who played for Hallberg at the Univerity of Illinois-Chicago and was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Seattle Supersonics.

Then there were the big wins.

"The highlight of my career was walking off the Assembly Hall at Champaign after beating the University of Illinois. Victories over Michigan State, Wichita State, Iowa State, Marquette," he said.

Even playing, but losing, at Syracuse was memorable, Hallberg said. 

"I’ve been very fortunate to have good teams. Winning is a great motivator in our business. I haven’t had too many losing seasons," he said.

As for whether he would do anything differently in his career, Hallberg said with a laugh, "Every time you lose, you look at that. You can play the game over a thousand times, but you can’t change the outcome."

Hallberg's team plays Judson University on Wednesday night and ends its regular season Saturday afternoon in Arlington Heights against Robert Morris University.

He said his coaching style has changed over the years. He said he eventually realized that players never take the losses as hard as the coaches do. 

"Coaching is our life. For a basketball player, it’s something they might do for two hours a day. It’s a very temporary part and then they’re on to school and their social life or something else," Hallberg said.

"You’ve got to be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Got to be intense in practice, but especially in this day and age, the key is communication. People have to come to your office and feel comfortable talking to you."

Hallberg spent his entire career in Chicago and said he has been told that he could have coached at much larger programs had he been willing to leave the Chicago area and the state of Illinois.