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Fenwick Head Coach John Quinn shouts during his teams game against Gordon Tech on Friday, January 11, 2012, in Oak Park IL. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
Rumors that started as early as Saturday became reality Wednesday with the news that Fenwick boys basketball coach John Quinn was fired after 28 years at the Oak Park Catholic school.
Standout freshman Michael Smith said he first heard about his coach’s impending dismissal after receiving a text message while studying on Sunday.
“It was out of the blue,” said Smith, a Burr Ridge resident. “It said, ‘Coach Quinn was being dismissed.’ I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it.”
Fenwick did not have school Monday, so Smith and the rest of his teammates did not officially hear about Quinn’s firing until athletic director Scott Thies set up a meeting with the team Wednesday afternoon.
By then, Smith said: “I was not in shock. [The rumor] was going around school so much.”
At the meeting, Smith said Thies told the team: ‘We have decided to move on. It was a hard decision.”
Smith said he guessed that one reason Quinn was let go was because of the team’s lack of wins in the past several seasons. Fenwick won its first regional title in Class 3A with a 64-55 victory over Marshall March 1. Fenwick’s last regional title was 2006 in Class AA.
Smith added that he does not remember the glory days of Fenwick when Corey Maggette led the Friars to their only state tournament appearance.
Smith was 2 years old when Maggette began his 13-year NBA career after leaving Duke University.
“I honestly don’t know why they dismissed [Quinn],” Smith said. “He treated everybody fairly and right.”
Quinn’s final game was a 55-46 loss to Orr in the Class 3A Riverside-Brookfield Sectional semifinal March 6. The Friars (18-9, 7-4 Catholic North) had won seven of their last eight games entering the contest.
In a statement, Thies said: “Fenwick High School has decided to make a change in its basketball program. As a result, John Quinn will no longer be the head basketball coach. He will, however, continue his duties as a valued member of the Fenwick faculty.... He has made many contributions to the program and we thank him for his many years of dedication and service to the Fenwick basketball program.”
Quinn responded late Wednesday with his own statement:
“I am very disappointed with the decision of the current administration to terminate my position as Head Coach of the Fenwick boys basketball team, but I am very proud of the record that my fellow coaches, players, and I have compiled over the last 28 years. The student athletes in our program have always performed with honor and great skill, both on the court and in the classroom.
I am particularly proud of the players on my current team. Although often starting only one senior, the team achieved an 18-9 record and won a regional championship before falling to Orr Academy, which is in the Final Four of the Class 3A State Championship. And more importantly, they regularly made the academic honor roll and became members of the National Honor Society along the way.
I deeply cherish the experience of coaching Fenwick young men and will miss the opportunity to coach this group next year and in the years beyond. I wish them great success on the court and in their lives off the court.”
Quinn’s first season was in 1985-86. He led the Friars to the state tournament in 1998 with Maggette, who currently plays forward for the Detroit Pistons. Maggette is the only basketball player to have his jersey retired by Fenwick.
Fenwick finished 28-3 and set a school-record for wins in a season. Fenwick went 16-9 in Quinn’s first season after he took over for Will Rey, the current coach at Northridge Prep. Fenwick’s first coach, the legendary Tony Lawless, owns the second longest tenure at the school of 16 years from 1933-48, according to IHSA.org records.
Quinn graduated from Fenwick and is a Social Studies teacher at the Oak Park school. Quinn received the Golden Apple Award in 1992. He also received the Rev. Conway Outstanding Teacher Award in 1986.
Quinn was named the Catholic League coach of the year four times and the Illinois Basketball Coaches’ Association District coach of the year five times.
Quinn was named to the Catholic League Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010.
He is the brother of Gov. Pat Quinn, who makes occasional appearances at Fenwick games.
Quinn’s dismissal comes more than a year after Joe DiCanio was fired as Fenwick’s football coach a few weeks into the 2011 season, his eighth year at the school. Thies took over the football program for the rest of that season and Gene Nudo completed his first season as football coach in the fall. The Friars went 8-4 and qualified for the postseason in 2012.