Coach Pieper anticipates character building season
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:03PM
Sports announcers pair color commentary with play by play.
But a broadcast script with pray by pray?
For the Aug. 31 Glenbrook North High School football home opener at William Lutz Stadium — no play book — no teleprompter, really — could prepare Varsity head football coach Bob Pieper for media questions about a future half-staff flown American flag.
“This is not what you sign up for, for sure,” said Pieper, of student deaths (including one graduate) impacting the Glenbrook community.
Billy Garrity, 17, who would have been a varsity special teams senior starter, died June 14. Ryan McCarthy, 20, a 2010 GBN graduate, died June 27.
On July 2, Kyle Caraher, 17, a senior who was varsity starting offensive lineman, died in a Wisconsin car accident.
On July 26, on a calm pre-season morning, which included chirping birds after a brief drizzle, Pieper discussed the tragedies in a rare one-on-one walkabout interview on Lutz Stadium grass turf.
“I don’t think these kinds of situations build character, they reveal them.”
Pieper, GBN’s varsity head coach of 13 years, whose team of nearly 50 players started double session practices this week, spoke of a July 5 show of emotions.
On that afternoon, Pieper, a man of composure, wept openly while addressing football families at a GBN-hosted outreach session which welcomed Rich Blue, Northbrook licensed clinical professional counselor.
“I was trying to hold it in,” said Pieper. “I had been crying all week.”
Pieper told local media: “He (Caraher) was the kind of young man I hope my young son will become some day.”
Caraher was the only junior last year who started all nine varsity games.
Pieper told me: “He (Caraher) worked extremely hard in the off season to put on size, strength and weight.
“He did everything we expected him to do,” added Pieper, noting Caraher exceeded “as a person and as an athlete.”
Pieper and his wife Jill, residents of Lake County, have three children, Nicole, 12, a seventh grader, Brooke, 10, a fifth grader and Jake, 8, a third grader.
All three siblings enjoy sports. Jake plays youth football.
“Coach (Matt) Purdy called me,” recalled Pieper, of the moment he learned of Caraher’s death.
“I was at Nicole’s softball game (in northwest suburban Barrington) and Coach Purdy said, ‘Are you sitting down?’
Pieper asked a parent to bring his daughter home after the game so he could make the emergency drive to Northbrook St. Norbert Church.
“I pretty much had to wipe my eyes the whole ride,” said Pieper.
“I tried to pull myself together before I got there because I knew the kids were going to need me.”
At about 8:15 p.m. at St. Norbert, Pieper greeted Purdy, assistant head football coach.
“We didn’t have to hug or shake hands,” said Pieper.
Both men, who are close pals, vacation together with their families on annual summer fishing trips.
At St. Norbert: “When we got there, the kids were all over the place,” said Pieper.
“The first thing we did was get as many kids as possible in the basement so we could talk.”
Pieper was informed players (on their own) assembled at Lutz Stadium late one night to absorb Caraher’s death.
“I told maintenance not to do anything.”
Pieper, who was head varsity football coach for the south suburban Crete-Monee High School Warriors (1992-96), has nearly 20 varsity offensive linemen this season.
“There’s a domino effect because we had Kyle (Caraher) pegged in as a starter from last year so we might have to move some guys around to play some positions they’re not used to,” said Pieper, whose varsity team attended July football camp at Illinois Wesleyan University in downstate Bloomington.
Pieper received his undergraduate degree (1991) from Illinois Benedictine University in Lisle and his 1996 physical education master’s from Chicago State University.
He holds an administrative teaching certificate (2000) from Governors State University (University Park).
“The kids seem to be leaning on each other more and there’s that extra motivation.
“They play for the team, they play for the school and now they’re gonna remember Billy and Kyle and play for them.”
The first season (Aug. 24) game is away at Hersey High School (7:30 p.m.). The GBN varsity home opener Aug. 31 against Lane Tech (7:30 p.m.) will include the half-staff flag flown under Friday night lights.
“Going through this situation first and foremost, we are thinking about the Garrity and Caraher families, as well as the McCarthy family,” said Pieper.
“The situation has shown us that there is a lot more to football now and it’s gonna teach us that we need to rely on others to get us through tough times.
“I just can’t thank the parents and community enough for being there with us.”
Visit www.gbhsweb.glenbrook225.org/GBN/athletics/fbsite/varsity.html and http://www.gbnbooster.org/.
View the video for more Pieper commentary.