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updated: 10/24/2012 8:19 AM

Legendary St. Viator basketball coach Probst dead at 75

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By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

A legendary basketball coach, who led winning programs at St. Viator High School, Harper College, McHenry County College and a pair of Lutheran elementary schools, has died.

Bill Probst passed away Tuesday after complications from a stroke. He was 75.

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His passing came just three days after he was inducted into the St. Viator High School Athletic Hall of Fame, where his coaching record included successful runs in both boys and girls basketball.

From 1978-1987, his St. Viator boys basketball teams claimed 134 wins and earned five Wheeling Hardwood Classic and four St. Viator Thanksgiving tournament championships.

Probst was voted East Suburban Catholic Conference coach of the year in 1982, and was named by the Chicago Sun-Times as a top five Chicago area prep coach.

During his nine years coaching the Lions, he ranked a 46-45 victory over conference rival, St. Joseph High School in Westchester, and its hall of fame coach Gene Pingatore, as his most memorable victory.

He returned to the school in 2000 as the girls' freshman coach, compiling a 70-5 record in three years. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003.

"He was a great defensive coach, and he taught me so much," said former St. Viator coach Joe Majkowski, who was Probst's sophomore coach during his years at the school. "He played man-to-man defense, and never wavered from that. He also ran a motion offense, but it was his defense that defined his philosophy and style of coaching."

Majkowski inherited the varsity program from Probst and went on to compile a hall of fame career himself, built in part on a strong defensive philosophy. He is just one of many coaches Probst influenced in the suburbs.

Others include Bryan Tucker, boys' head coach at Barrington High School and former head coach at Loyola Academy, as well as Barrington sophomore coach Joe Malloy, who previously coached at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein. Probst also coached with Wally Reynolds, who is now athletic director at McHenry County Community College.

"I still run some of his drills," Malloy said. "I learned from him about teaching team defense and getting kids to play hard and to compete."

Tom Blenner, a former coach at Marian Central High School in Woodstock and at St. Viator, coached girls with Probst in an AAU program based in Arlington Heights. Blenner estimates they coached hundreds of girls who went on to play at Palatine, Fremd, Wheeling, Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Cary-Grove, Streamwood, Crystal Lake South, Prairie Ridge and St. Viator high schools.

"Everyone knew that if you didn't play defense you wouldn't be in the lineup," Blenner said. "That was the only way he knew how to coach basketball."

Probst is survived by his wife, JoAnn. The couple lived in Cary and had no children. Services are pending.

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