No one supports Cary-Grove like Lachel
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Daily Herald File Photo Cary-Grove tennis coach Bud Lachel will retire from coaching after the girls' season in the fall. Lachel, 70, has coached at Cary-Grove for 42 years. t
Harold "Bud" Lachel is in North Carolina this weekend helping friends move.
The significance of the trip is that Lachel has time for such an excursion.
For the last 41 springs he was busy coaching boys tennis at Cary-Grove High School, a job he said he initially "backed into."
Lachel was a first-year teacher at Cary-Grove in the fall of 1969 when the school's principal, Walter Forsyth, called the new guy into his office.
"You're pretty athletic," Forsyth noted. "How would you like to be the tennis coach?"
"Well, I don't know anything about tennis, but I enjoy sports," Lachel answered. "If you get into a bind, let me know."
The topic wasn't raised again until Forsyth summoned Lachel to his office the following spring.
"Do you still want the job?" Forsyth asked.
"What job?" a nontenured Lachel asked tentatively, wondering if he was about to be fired from his teaching position.
"The tennis job," Forsyth reminded him.
Relieved, Lachel agreed to fill in until a more qualified coach came along. None did for the next 41 years, not that Lachel was initially high school tennis' answer to Vince Lombardi. His first team went 0-14. The next year the Trojans were 2-15.
"What I know about this sport I learned as a coach," Lachel said Thursday from the passenger seat of a car headed southbound through Indiana.
Nevertheless, he learned on the job pretty well. Lachel has stepped away from the boys game this spring a mere 3 coaching victories shy of 400 for his career.
He intends to coach the Cary-Grove girls tennis team next fall for the 37th and final time. According to his calculations, he'll eclipse 900 combined boys and girls tennis victories if the Cary-Grove girls team wins 11 dual meets next fall.
However, Lachel isn't holding on just to reach a milestone. He doesn't need to. The next closest tennis coach, Tom Henderson of Ottawa, retired with 715 victories.
His record for career victories is a testament not only to longevity but to how much the Dundee resident has enjoyed mentoring generations of kids in Cary. Now he is preparing for the end of an illustrious coaching career.
"After 42 years and some family issues, it was time for me to step down from the boys," Lachel said. "Ever since my wife passed away, some of my priorities have changed. I want to spend more time with my family while I can."
Barbara Lachel passed away four years ago in February, 10 days after she was diagnosed with cancer. Bud said he took solace that year from the familiar routine of the spring tennis season as well as from friends and family who rallied to his support.
Lachel, 70, is preparing to transition to the next phase of his life, one that includes plenty of hard-earned travel to Florida and Arizona during the winter months.
"I want to coach the girls one more year," he said of the fall season. "After I'm done with the girls, I'll be done completely."
Though his long coaching career is nearly complete, one has to wonder if Lachel will ever truly be done with Cary-Grove athletics. The two are as intertwined as racket strings.
If you've attended a Cary-Grove vs. Crystal Lake South football game in 40-degree weather, you've seen Bud Lachel cheering on the blue and white in a knit hat.
If you've been to a Cary-Grove boys or girls basketball game in the last four decades, you've probably seen Lachel keeping the official score. In fact, he has worked for 22 years as the official scorer for the girls state tournament and was inducted to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002 as a "Friend of Basketball".
"Gary Wadlington said I should put my name in for the girls tournament and I've been doing it ever since," Lachel said.
Football games, basketball games of both genders, track meets, even the occasional cross country meet — Lachel estimates he has witnessed more Cary-Grove sporting events than anyone in history, living or otherwise.
How much school spirit does this man have? One of his regrets is not being able to watch fellow Cary-Grove coach Patty Langanis' direct her remarkable volleyball program more often. "They play on the same days at the same time that we play," Lachel lamented.
Lachel even founded the Scholastic Bowl team at Cary-Grove and coached it to 413 victories in 21 seasons over two stints. He was inducted to the Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and still recommends new inductees.
Lachel's dedication and support of all things Cary-Grove doesn't go unnoticed.
"He's a very good man who has been extremely loyal to Cary-Grove and Cary-Grove athletics," said C-G athletic director Bruce Kay. "His love for athletics and kids is easy to see by the amount of events he's been to. He goes to as many games as he can when he's in town. His loyalty and love for Cary-Grove is something noteworthy and has to be respected."
So what makes a man continue to coach the sport of tennis for 10 seasons after he has retired as a teacher and for 17 seasons after his 1994 induction to the Illinois High School Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame?
"People ask why I stick around and I say, 'Well, because I've enjoyed it,' " Lachel said. "They're good kids. I think Cary has a unique group of athletes, whether it's tennis or basketball or volleyball or whatever. We've had really nice kids from nice families.
"In all the years I've coached, 98 percent of the kids are enjoyable to coach, and the same for their parents and the administration. It's been a good 42 years, so I can't complain too much."
Lachel said he still runs into Walt Forsyth occasionally. Little did Forsyth know in 1969 the young teacher that "backed into" the tennis coaching position would end up being the biggest backer of Cary-Grove athletics for the next 42 years.
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