Daily Herald opinion: The mark of a great coach goes beyond stats, as recent losses show

It was a tough week for current and former high school athletes as news spread of the deaths of two beloved suburban coaches.

Dave Yates, who led Fremd High School’s girls basketball team to a third-place finish in the state tournament this spring even while being treated for brain cancer, died Tuesday. He was 54.

Hall of Fame member and Dundee-Crown wrestling coach Al Zinke died June 9. Daily Herald file photo

Al Zinke, a former Dundee-Crown High School wrestling coach whose memorable career spanned five decades, died June 9. He was 73.

Both made their marks in prep sports, but their legacies extended far past wrestling mats and basketball courts, as stories by Sports Editor Orrin Schwarz and reporter Dave Oberhelman poignantly showed this week. And remembrances for both men underscore the truth that great coaches aren’t just measured by the numbers on the scoreboard or the size of a school’s trophy case.

An Elgin native, Yates led Fremd to 10 Mid-Suburban League championships, 11 regional titles, five sectional titles, five supersectional titles and five trips to state. His overall record was 512-191, including his time at two prior schools. He chaired Fremd’s math department and was a recent addition to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame

Zinke, a member of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Hall of Fame, compiled a dual-meet record of 621-146-4, putting him eighth among Illinois High School Association wrestling coaches. His teams won 10 regional championships with fourth-place finishes in 1985 and 2004. He produced 12 state medalists, including a state championship in 2020.

These stats and resumes are impressive, but the stories told by former athletes are more so.

Dundee-Crown boys basketball coach Lance Huber worked as an assistant football coach alongside Zinke, who served 11 years as Dundee-Crown athletic director. Huber said Zinke set up a fund to help needy students pay athletic fees. He and his wife even offered a place to stay if a student needed one.

“He was a good man, an excellent coach, an excellent advocate for student-athletes, always had the student-athletes at the forefront of everything,” Huber said.

As for Yates, former player Haley Gorecki once spoke with the Daily Herald’s John Radtke — who also died this spring — about what her former coach meant to her.

“He is so dedicated and just always wanted the best for me. Going on college basketball camp visits, or heading down to state I will remember for the rest of my life and it all happened because of Mr. Yates.

“It didn't stop there,” said Gorecki, who went on to play at Duke University. “Coach Yates would always reach out while I was in college checking in to see how I was, not even just about basketball but about life.”

A good coach teaches student athletes how to navigate the court or the field. A great one imparts positive life lessons that will stick with players long after they hang up their jerseys. Yates and Zinke did that and more.

We extend condolences to those who mourn them, especially their families who will mark Father’s Day Sunday without their dads. We hope they take comfort in all that their loved ones left behind.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.