Remembering Evanston's Dobbie Burton

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Remembering Evanston's Dobbie Burton

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 6:35 p.m.

By Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

In 38 years as Evanston's boys swimming coach, Dobbie Burton won 89 percent of his dual meets and four national championships and produced 25 state trophy-winning teams and 200 All-Americans, including 1956 Olympian Dick Hanley.

An impressive resume for a man who accepted the job in 1947 even though the school didn't have a swimming pool at the time, a man whose former athletes still respectfully refer to him as Mr. Burton, not coach.

"He had a lot of good qualities but motivation was best," Hanley recalled. "I played football through my sophomore year but he convinced me that with the Olympics coming on that I would be better off in swimming. He'd write down the times he expected me to do. It seemed to be way above what I could do. But I would do what he predicted."

William Dobson "Dobbie" Burton, who coached at Evanston from 1947 to 1985, died last Thursday. He was 92. On March 11, his birthday, the swimming pool that was built in 1958 was re-dedicated in his name.

Burton was one of the pioneers of high school swimming in Illinois, an icon who loved to compete against the state's other nationally recognized coaches, New Trier's Dave Robertson and Hinsdale Central's Don Watson. He dominated in the 1950s, winning five state championships and four mythical national titles.

"He was a tremendous influence," said Hanley, who won four state individual titles from 1953-55, set national high school records in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle, won one NCAA title and four AAU titles at Michigan, set one world record and was a silver medalist in the 1956 Olympics.

"He said all the time: 'You have to pay the price.' He could get you up to compete. The ones who didn't compete well? He called them 'ham and eggers.' He said you were no better than your mind and he got your mind where it was supposed to be. You could be the best trained athlete but if you didn't think positively, you won't do it."

The list of other swimmers who earned All-America recognition under Burton's guidance included Tom Alderson, Dave Burgess, Ed Cole, Mike Farmer, Tony Follett, Peter Hammer, Deed Hardin, Jacob Johnson, Doug Lennox, Sean McCaffrey, Skip McCallum, Jeff Moore, Dave Pemberton, Tom Pringle, Tom Schwarten, Terry and Tim Silkaitis, Eric Skalinder, Peter Skoglund, Bill Stiles and Bill Swisher. His son, Patrick, competed on the 1981-83 teams.

Burton, who was inducted into the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969, produced five NCAA Division I national champions, a dual meet record of 418-54, a dozen top 10 national finishes, 17 Suburban League championship teams and six Central Suburban League winners. Aside from his five state titles, he had 11 runners up and nine third-place finishers.

"He was a kind and benevolent disciplinarian. He worked us as hard as he possibly could without being mean. But he was fair. He knew when to encourage and berate. He was our best friend," said Burgess, a member of the class of 1958.

"In those days, he was in favor of having as many kids as possible on the team. There was always so much competition. You always had somebody chasing you. That was part of the motivation. Everybody wanted to be on the swimming team, part of the success."

Stiles, a member of the class of 1959, said Burton's success had nothing to do with his record. He recalls a story that he frequently relates to people about Tom "Hoot" Gibson, a personally troubled and mentally challenged youngster who was a member of the 1959-61 teams.

"Gibson came out for the team and (Burton) got into his head that he could be an outstanding swimmer," Stiles said. "He made him the leader of the team. He told the rest of the team: 'You think too much. If you do what Hoot does, you'll be successful.' He went on to win the 400-yard freestyle (and three seconds) in the state meet.

"In four years, he took someone who you wouldn't think could be successful and made him a state champion. Mr. Burton did that with a lot of people. He was a great motivator. A lot of what he accomplished with his kids had nothing to do with swimming but a lot to do with motivation. He was an inspiration to all of us."

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

In a season where the triple-double has become commonplace to the point of stat chasing in the effort to chase history, Dwyane Wade didn't mind snatching his own piece of turf.

In a game where teammate Jimmy Butler reached the feat for the first time this season, it would've been doubly satisfactory for Wade to achieve the fifth triple-double of his career.

One rebound away in the final seconds of the Bulls' 117-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the memo didn't reach Cristiano Felicio, who reached over Wade to grab a rebound, causing it to harmlessly fall out of bounds and ending Wade's chance at history.

After Wade finished with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes, he was asked if he "hated" Felicio for interrupting his moment.

"No hate. Just a strong dislike, though," said Wade with a wry smile. "You know how long it's been since I had a triple double? It's been a long time."

It's been six years, as his last triple-double came in the 2010-11 season with the Miami Heat, achieving the feat with a 22-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist performance against the then-Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 4, 2011.

Even more than the statistical feat was Wade's variety, as he grabbed seven rebounds in the decisive third-quarter run that broke the game open, hitting Butler and Bobby Portis for long touchdown passes that would've had Jay Cutler or whichever quarterback the Cleveland Browns are banking on next fall, blushing.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact it was on the second night of a back-to-back with the Bulls winning in overtime against the Phoenix Suns—a game where Wade turned it up late then threw it down over Alex Len in overtime.

"I think we just found our groove," Wade said. "We've had some injuries that have gone on but we're playing good basketball."

More pointedly, so is Wade, aided by him often finding Felicio for easy dunks on the pick and roll as they play second and fourth quarters together. 

Felicio was clearly bothered by his gaffe, which was made worse by the take-no-prisoners approach from Wade and Butler. When a member of foreign media approached him about an interview, Felicio said "you're not asking me about that last rebound, are you?"

Later in the evening, Felicio went to Twitter, posting "I did not know!!" in reference to Wade's night.

"I told him I didn't not even gonna act like I ain't mad at him. I'm very mad at him," said Wade with a laugh. "But he's all good. He said he didn't see me down there. So he took a shot at my height. It's cool. Jimmy had one. It would've been nice to have two triple doubles."

"I'm sure a stat would've came out that would've said, ‘Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are the first duo to get a triple-double on a back-to-back since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen', since they got every record around here."

He was close, although Jordan and Pippen didn't achieve their feat on a back-to-back but a random night in the 1988-89 season. Jordan scored 41 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Pippen had 15 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-121 overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We laugh about that often, but it's all good," Wade said. "I gotta work harder till I get another one one day."

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