Remembering Spin Salario

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Remembering Spin Salario

Isadore "Spin" Salario will forever be remembered as the little Italian who bridged the gaps between black and white and coached Marshall High School on Chicago's West Side to state basketball championships in 1958 and 1960.

The 1958 team, led by 6-foot-8 sophomore George Wilson, 6-foot-5 M.C. Thompson, Steve Thomas, Tyrone Johnson and Bobby Jones, went 31-0 and became the first Chicago Public League team and the first all-black team to win a state title. It is recognized as one of the best teams in state history.

After losing a heartbreaking 63-62 decision to Waukegan in the 1959 supersectional at Northwestern's McGaw Hall in Evanston, the 1960 squad, led by Wilson, 6-foot-8 Ed Franklin, Eddie Jakes, Charlie Jones and Ken Moses, went 31-2 to win another state title.

Salario later coached at Chicago Teachers' College and Northeastern Illinois University. A resident of Wheeling, he died recently at age 90. In six years at Marshall, Salario's teams won four city championships with a coaching style and discipline that changed the way the game was played.

"I felt like I owed it to the fans to play an exciting brand of basketball," he said in an interview on the 40th anniversary of his 1958 championship. "I never, ever had a team stall. We took shots from all over the floor if they were there. That time was great because we broke a psychological barrier."

"He was such a great person," Wilson said. "He kept us focused on one game at a time. He never mentioned state championship or what happened to Marshall versus Quincy (1955) or Du Sable versus Mount Vernon (1954). He didn't want to put negative stuff on you, just positive.

"He told us what goals he had set and what he had expected us to do. He said we will get in tip-top shape. He never, ever cut a guy who tried out for the team. They didn't make it because they couldn't run the laps. They left on their own.

"He taught us to persevere at all times. You could talk to him at all times. 'I will never, ever go to a teacher and ask them to change a grade to let you pass,' he told us. He was white, coaching an all-black team. But being white never was a factor.

"He taught us that we had to learn to outthink the other team. 'Use your mind," he said. His philosophy was to score at one end, stop them at the other end and finish the game ahead by at least two points. It was very simple. He didn't have too many plays, just options off of plays."

Wilson, who went on to play on Cincinnati's 1962 NCAA championship team and the 1964 U.S. Olympic team and played for seven years in the NBA, said Salario was a very intelligent man (he had a doctorate) who cared about his players and always had a smile on his face. But when he had to get tough, he was.

"He threw me off the team one for talking back to him in the huddle,"
Wilson recalled. "I was off the team for three days. I never dared tell my parents. They taught me to be respectful of someone in authority, not to let my mouth get me in trouble."

When Wilson was ready to go to college, Salario gave him good advice. "Pick five schools you want to visit and you will find the one. All of them will have academics, a good coach and a good basketball program. But where do you want to be for four years?" Salario told him.

Wilson signed with Illinois and Cincinnati, then went to Cincinnati because he was influenced by Cincinnati star Oscar Robertson.

Don Jackson, who played on the 1960 Marshall team, said Salario "came across as a seasoned coach, experienced, proven. He was not intimidated. He had a rule that if you didn't make your grades, you wouldn't play. Everybody wanted to play for Marshall and he held that up. The fear of not being able to play was deadly," he said.

"People never gave Spin the credit they should have. He was smart enough to say if we can get in condition, we can play defense. We didn't play zone. We were in such good shape. We pressed all the time. Spin was a players' coach but he also was a disciplinarian. To hold those guys in check was a tough job. We had a feeling that this was something special. The whole feeling of being a Commando was special."

Salario was almost fanatical about conditioning. He had his players running in the halls with iron bars over their shoulders. "Even Northwestern (where Jackson played after high school) didn't have a conditioning program to equal Marshall. People said it wasn't organized basketball but all we needed was a pick-and-roll," Jackson said.

M.C. Thompson said Salario "was absolutely in control of the team. Race wasn't a problem. He had bridged whatever gaps he had to before I got there. He was a great disciplinarian, strong on conditioning. He made us believe we were in better condition than anyone else, especially in the fourth quarter."

Thompson was the 13th man on the squad for two years but Salario had confidence in him, teaching him the fundamentals of rebounding, Thompson's specialty. He went on to play at DePaul.

"He was honest. When I finished playing at Marshall, he sat me down and said I could go far in basketball," Thompson said. "He said he didn't think I was as good as I was, that I was as good as (Crane's) Tim Robinson and (Dunbar's) Bernie Mills. He said he didn't realize it until the end of the season. I had a lot of respect for that kind of honesty."

Charlie Jones said he never had a father (he died a month before he was born) but Salario was like a father to him. All of the players called him Spin, not coach.

"Spin had to be one of the greatest high school coaches of all. He gave all the players quality time, not garbage time. He prepared us for every circumstance that could happen in a game before it happened," he said.

"The secret to Marshall teams wasn't that we were better than other teams but it was because of our conditioning and discipline. We never touched a ball for the first month of practice. We were lifting weights and running stairs. We had players in school who were better but they couldn't make the team because of grades. That's the way Spin was."

A service will be celebrated at Woodlawn Funeral Home at Cermak and Des Plaines in Forest Park at 10:30 a.m. Friday. A procession will follow to Menorah Gardens Cemetery in Broadview for a graveside service. Family and friends will gather at the Carleton of Oak Park Hotel, 1110 Pleasant Street, in Oak Park at 1 p.m. Friday.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

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While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.