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Just call it 'PJ's Excellent Adventure'
 

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Just call it 'PJ's Excellent Adventure'
  • P.J. White, boys basketball coach and athletic director at St. Edward and an assistant football coach at Batavia, displays the state football championship medal from Saturday's Class 6A title game, and the championship trophy the St. Edward boys basketball team won Saturday night at Westminster Christian.

    Purchase Photo | P.J. White, boys basketball coach and athletic director at St. Edward and an assistant football coach at Batavia, displays the state football championship medal from Saturday's Class 6A title game, and the championship trophy the St. Edward boys basketball team won Saturday night at Westminster Christian. Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 

It would have been completely understandable had PJ White found himself driving north when he should have been going south at any given time the past couple weeks.

Above all, White has to be thankful Randall Road isn't a tollway.

Story Continues Below

White wears many hats of different colors and from Batavia's run to the Class 6A state football championship Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb to his St. Edward boys basketball team winning the championship at the Westminster Christian Thanksgiving tournament a couple hours after the football game, can the movie "PJ's Excellent Adventure" be far behind?

"It was a lot of hours but it's one of the coolest things I've ever done," said White on Monday from his office at St. Edward, where the health and physical education teacher is also in his eighth year as the Green Wave's athletic director.

Think about it. OK, so there are a fair number of coaches out there who double up on sports. Naperville Central boys basketball coach Pete Kramer, for example, is an assistant football coach for the Class 8A state champion Redhawks.

But how many coaches are involved as an assistant football coach at one school, and not only head boys basketball coach but also the AD at another school 16 miles away?

That's PJ White. One could not blame his wife, Patricia, if she asked for ID at the door on some nights.

"The day goes by in a hurry," White laughed. "I'd leave (St. Edward) and drive to Batavia and the two schools let out at the same time so I could never be there on time for practice. But we have a great staff there and a great administration and it was never a problem. It's worked out well and we all work well together."

They should. Several of them have known each other since they were kids growing up in Batavia, and White and Bulldogs' head football coach Dennis Piron are cousins.

"He's a good friend, loyal as can be and generous with his time," Piron said. "He's an incredible worker and very dedicated. He is such an unselfish man and has helped everyone around our program whenever they have needed it. (I) truly love him and admire his accomplishments as well."

White graduated from Batavia in 1979, where he was an all-conference (the Little Seven at that time) lineman for coach Tunis Tate. His parents had divorced when he was young and he spent his summers in Fullerton, Calif., with his mom. When he graduated from Batavia, he headed west and played football at Fullerton Community College and then at Division II Humboldt State in northern California.

It was while he was in California that White, who also played basketball and ran track at Batavia, began to dabble in coaching and he had a couple offers to stay in California and coach but he decided to come home and join his dad in the family construction business which he stayed in for 27 years, the last 18 of those running the company himself after his dad passed away.

It was actually Batavia boys basketball coach Jimmy Roberts who got White involved in coaching at Batavia.

"Jimmy and I were Little League teammates and the first year I was home he had just become the basketball coach," White said. "He asked me if I was interested in coaching and said they had a teaching job at the junior high. But I had just come home and I was involved in the construction business with my dad so I told Jimmy I'd have to pass. He called a couple weeks later and said they had found a teacher but they still needed a freshman basketball coach, so I decided to do it. I coached the freshmen one year and then I was the sophomore coach for the next 25 years."

Then came football.

"After a couple years they had a couple of football coaches leaving for different jobs and Mike Gaspari asked me if I'd be interested in coaching football," White said. "Basketball had worked out and the administration had been great to me, and now I've been coaching football for 25 years."

During that time White, an offensive line coach, coached the son of former St. Edward principal Father Max Streidl in track at Batavia.

"Father Max called me and asked if I'd be interested in coaching at St. Edward so I came up and coached track for one year," White said. "Next thing you know I'm teaching health and PE and now I've been AD for eight years and boys basketball coach four years.

"I have to thank (former St. Edward superintendent) Father Ed (Seisser). He was very agreeable to me coaching at another school and working here at St. Edward. The administration here has always been very sports-friendly," said White, whose sons Jim (Elmhurst College) and Sean (Aurora University) were also Batavia athletes, both playing baseball and Jim tennis.

White had coached in a state title game previously, back in 2006 when Batavia lost to Normal Community in the 6A championship. But he wasn't St. Edward's boys basketball coach then and, well, Batavia lost, so it's an experience worth little in the memory bank.

Saturday, though, was another story -- one dreams (and movies?) are made of.

"The odds were I wasn't going to win either," White said. "We had already been beaten by Richards (in football) and we played IC (in basketball) four times last year and lost three of them. It could have been a rough day but it turned out pretty good."

But it was a whirlwind. And a scramble. The football game was scheduled to start at 1 p.m., so White rode the Batavia team bus to DeKalb and figured he'd have plenty of time to get back and then drive to Elgin for the Green Wave's 7:30 p.m. basketball game. But the Class 5A title game pushed things back an hour in DeKalb and White was left scrambling for a quicker ride back to Batavia than the bus. He finally landed a ride with Cory Clark, the dad of a former Batavia player, got back to Batavia, high-tailed it north on Randall and got to the basketball game as the national anthem was being played.

"The hardest part for me was I didn't want to leave (DeKalb) right away," White said. "I wanted to stay there and shake hands and hug people but I had to leave."

Gus Domel, one of White's basketball assistants, had things well in hand. He had to. St. Edward's other basketball assistant, Larry Gay, is also a Batavia assistant football coach.

"The kids all knew and the parents all knew and they all said it's no problem, get here when you can," White said. "Everyone was very supportive."

The day also came with a great deal of pride.

"Being a (Batavia) graduate I was pretty proud to be a part of it," White said. "It's a lot of hours. It starts out where you're just going back and forth a couple nights a week for open gyms but it morphs into practice every night and with our facilities (at St. Edward) being limited, we were practicing 7-9 every night. We never set out to accomplish anything for coach White. It's for the programs and the kids, as it should be.

"It doesn't come with a lot of sleep but it does come with a lot of enjoyment."

As well as a lot of trips up and down Randall Road.

jradtke@dailyherald.com

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