A Hall of Fame usually is reserved for players and coaches who fill the stats sheet.
Make no mistake, Joliet Catholic coach Joe Gura has won his share of games in 42 years coaching boys basketball. But discussing Gura’s accomplishments based primarily on victories would be to miss his essence. For his commitment to basketball, he will be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the IBCA’s annual banquet Saturday at the Illinois State University Bone Student Center in Normal.
“Having Joe here the last few years [since 2011] really has been a blessing for all of Joliet Catholic, not just the basketball program,” JCA athletic director Dan Sharp said.
“I’ve known him since I was an assistant freshman basketball coach here and he was at Lockport. I saw his enthusiasm then. He still has that same unbridled enthusiasm. He lights up a room, whether it’s the gym or the classroom.”
For a comparison, Sharp cited two local legends, the late Gordie Gillespie and Pat Sullivan.
“The basketball court is just another classroom to Joe,” Sharp said. “We’ve been blessed to have coaches like Gordie and Sully in this area, and Joe is the same. They all were excellent teachers, first and foremost.
“Everyone who has had the opportunity to work with Joe will say he is as consistent a person as there is. He loves everyone. He cares about everyone.”
Gura said his parents impressed on him that “if you wanted to be treated right, you treat people right. If you want to enjoy life, you let people know you are enjoying life.”
That’s how Gura approaches life, his classroom and his basketball team. His Hilltoppers made a run to a sectional final in 2014, and this past season became the first JCA team in almost 35 years to finish above .500.
“My first couple of years here, we could barely bring the ball up,” Gura said. “But I had faith the people here would work with me, and they have. I have gotten unbelievable support from [Principal] Jeff Budz and Dan Sharp. When we succeed, they are as happy as the coaches and players are.”
Gura said the IBCA Hall of Fame award “means everything to me. When I was informed I was under consideration, it took me by surprise. Pat Sullivan called and said I was one of the people chosen. When Pat Sullivan thinks that of you, it means something. It’s a humbling thing because there are so many deserving people out there.”
Published by Dick Goss, Herald-News (Joliet) Shaw Media