(Glenview Patch) Maybe it goes without saying, but it’s generally a bad idea to mess with a former professional wrestler.
Frank Belmont found that out the hard way. Back in 1998, the mammoth, 6’8” former Waukegan basketball coach was standing up and blocking the view of Chuck Haley (that former wrestler) during a tense game in Glenview.
When the longtime Glenbrook South scorekeeper politely asked Belmont to move down a bit so the scorer’s table could see the basket, Belmont turned around and snapped back a reply. As Haley tells it, Belmont said to him, “You’re a table official, don’t talk to me!” Unfortunately for Belmont, the referee was running by at the time, and thought he heard, “You’re a terrible official.” The ref quickly hit the coach with a technical foul.
“He tried to plead his case to the ref, but we just looked at him, shrugged our shoulders and smiled,” Haley recalls, chuckling. “And we went on to win the game.”
With the mien of Santa Claus (whom he has played on occasion), Chuck Haley has been a fixture as the scorekeeper at Glenbrook South boys’ basketball games for the past 22 years.
“I make sure there are no mistakes, the fouls are correct, the score is right,” Haley says. “I view my role as a support role to the coaches, so they don’t have to worry about anything. To let them know how many timeouts we have left, the kids who are in foul trouble, etc. I have fun doing it.”
His professional wrestling career, though real, was brief. Haley was unemployed and visiting a buddy, whom Haley had wrestled with in high school, up in Minneapolis in the mid-1970s. The two dropped by a professional wrestling match in town. They chatted up the promoter, who invited Haley to join the circuit. Haley performed for the whole season – about eight months – before heading back home.
Once back in his hometown, Haley began to look for work. He eventually hooked on at Glenbrook South, where he has worked maintenance for the past 34 years. He got his start with GBS basketball once he was switched to the day crew, when he began to help out with athletics at night to make a little extra money.
Since then, Haley has seen plenty of basketball games. He says the best all-around player he’s ever seen don a Titans’ uniform was David Gerschezon, a 2002 graduate who had a good career at Elmhurst College. Other names in the conversation included players both past (Dan Ivankovich, a 6’11’’ All-American back in the late ‘70s who graduated from Northwestern, and is now an orthopedic surgeon) and more present (Jeff Ryan, an ’06 graduate currently playing at Northwestern). When it came to naming the best opposing players he’s seen, Haley immediately mentions Jon Scheyer, a former GBN All-American and Illinois Mr. Basketball in ’06.
On game days at the Titan Dome, Haley is easy to spot. He’s the bald guy in the glasses with the long white chin curtain beard (or Donegal, according to beards.org), wearing the striped referee shirt, and sitting front and center at the scorer’s table. It’s truly a labor of love for Haley, which is evidenced by his dedication and impeccably neat scorebook.
“High school athletics to me is the purest form of sport,” Haley says. “The kids are not playing for money, and there’s not big money involved like in college or pro [athletics]. And I love the kids … I see them during the day and talk to them. I mean, this [GBN-GBS] local rivalry, that’s what it’s all about.”
Indeed, Glenbrook South Coach Scott Nemecek understands how valuable Haley is the program, and says he is a welcome sight to see, especially when the Titans travel to an opposing gym.
“He loves it, no one cares more than he does,” Nemecek said. “He’s extremely disappointed when we lose, but he’s disappointed for the kids and the coaches, not for himself. It’s a big part of his life, and he’s a huge part of who we are. We adore him to death.“
It’s clear the feeling is mutual. Despite the ups-and-downs of the 2010-11 season, Haley’s faith in Nemecek and the program’s direction remains fervent.
“I think Scott’s doing a great job,” Haley said. “I like the way he wants to play an up-tempo game [and] that he mixes up his defenses, Right now we’ve had some injuries, but it’s fun to watch the kids play because he gets them to play hard.”
So was it difficult for the Glenbrook North graduate, the wrestler who helped lead the Spartans to regional titles in 1971 and ’73, to switch allegiances from North to South?
“It was weird at first, but I’ve been at Glenbrook South for almost 34 years,” Haley says. “So you could pretty much say I bleed blue and gold.”
By William Hupp, Glenview Patch