Marty Dello kept saying no.
No way he was going to return to coaching high school basketball with his wife Lisa battling breast cancer.
No chance he was going to take the job at Chicagoland Jewish Academy with his daughter Angela nearing her college years.
No shot at getting him to do this with the hockey career of his son Tory, a sophomore at Crystal Lake Central, taking him next year to play in the USHL in Kearney, Neb., and eventually to the University of Notre Dame.
But those from Chicagoland Jewish who know Dello wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“The running joke is I turned down the job three times before I said yes,” the former head coach at Barrington and Crystal Lake South said with a laugh.
The turnaround Dello was able to lead in his second year at the Deerfield school was no joke. Chicagoland Jewish won a Class 1A regional title, played giant-killer with a sectional semifinal stunner of Mooseheart and ended the season 21-4 after falling just short to Newark 67-64 in the sectional title game last Saturday.
Dello may not have had anyone with the talent level of eventual Division I standouts Jason Richards (Davidson) and Bucky Cox (Drake) as he did during his six-year tenure at Barrington. That didn’t matter as Dello helped a school that opened in 2001 make a rare trip into the March Madness spotlight.
“This experience is basically why we coach,” Dello said. “I talk to my assistants all the time that it’s not about winning, it’s about the journey and how to compete.
“We got to build memories for the kids because you’re not going to have a team that’s successful every year based on wins and losses. The memories the kids built are absolutely incredible.”
Dello had also been a head coach at McHenry County College and Bellevue University before a three-year stint in charge at Crystal Lake South. Then he came to Barrington, but in February of 2009 he made his decision to step down at the end of his sixth season because of his wife’s breast cancer.
Dello was helping former Schaumburg and current Niles West coach Bob Williams run his feeder program when Chicagoland Jewish came calling. Athletic Director Josh Weichar had been a feeder coach with Dello and the school’s dean, Bruce Scher, used to be the head of Barrington’s guidance department.
Some coaches take jobs because of the talent level and history of success. Dello took this one because of how it fit his current situation.
“The bottom line is it was an absolutely perfect fit for me and my family,” said Dello, who still teaches driver’s education at Barrington. “I was so appreciative, No. 1, and No. 2, they were really flexible. If there was a weekend where Lisa was ill, I would take Tory to his hockey tournaments and turn the team over to my assistants. You can’t do that at a bigger school.”
There are other positives — and what Dello called “roadblocks” — to coaching at the school which draws its 165 students from 21 communities and 44 synagogues. They can’t practice on Fridays because of the Jewish Sabbath, there is no summer program and the seniors go away on a three-week trip to Israel in January.
“It’s a great idea,” Dello said with a laugh, “but does it have to be right in the middle of the basketball season?”
Yet his team overcame all the challenges — including having no starters over 6-feet-1 knock off a Mooseheart team with Sudanese transfers who were 7 feet, 6-10 and 6-7. Unfortunately for Chicagoland Jewish, after shooting close to 50 percent from 3-point range all season, it fell 3 points short to Newark because it was 6-for-19 behind the arc and missed 7 layups and 10 free throws.
The good news for Chicagoland Jewish is it will have a shot at more success with seven of its top 10 players expected to return next year.
Will Dello return with them? How could he say no.
“I’ve got a new lease on life,” Dello said.
Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.