Longtime Hersey coach Glover remembered for taking team from worst to first
Bruce Glover's quotability lent some excellent perspective to his ability to achieve a coaching feat which remains unequaled in Illinois high school football history.
Glover led Hersey to No. 1 in Class 6A in 1987 with a state title. Beating national and state power East St. Louis, in the IHSA's largest class at the time, capped a remarkable turnaround from a year earlier where one was the lonely number in the team's victory column.
"He coined the phrase, 'From the outhouse to the penthouse,'" said Mark Gunther, who captained the champions as a starting linebacker and came back to assist Glover during his final five years as head coach.
Glover's 1987 Huskies, who featured future Purdue star and NFL lineman Frank Kmet and current Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin at quarterback, are the only team to produce such a pronounced reversal of fortune since the IHSA football postseason started in 1974. The closest are 10 teams that followed a 3-win season with a state title, according to IHSA records.
Glover, who was one of only three Mid-Suburban League head coaches to win a state football title, died earlier this month at age 76 in Palm Desert, Calif.
"In the summer it was Bruce, (defensive coordinator) Mike Mullaney and me as the young guy on the staff, ready to learn," said Gunther, who followed Glover and Mullaney as Hersey's head coach from 2004-09. "I got to work fairly close with Bruce early in my career and it was really obvious as a young staff member this was a coach's coach."
One who was in the top spot longer (17 years from 1982-98) with more victories (85-78) and postseason appearances (five) than any other football coach in Hersey history. The latter total would have been higher with six 5-4 finishes during eras where teams needed seven and six wins to capture at-large playoff berths.
And his accomplishments were achieved with a competitive fire that didn't boil over into practice-field or sideline meltdowns.
"He did a lot of creative things and he was smooth in the way he did things with the kids in the program," said Fred Lussow, who coached against Glover at Forest View and Rolling Meadows before joining Glover's staff at Hersey in the 1990s.
"He was always under control and he never berated players or used the force of his personality to get guys to do things," Gunther said of his mentor and role model. "He used his knowledge of football and love and respect of the game. You knew he had it under control."
Gunther said that was evident even in the most challenging of circumstances. Hersey's 1-8 finish in 1986 prompted Glover to say, "We were not a good team by MSL standards, but there were 400 to 500 teams in the state we could have beaten. They just weren't on our schedule."
A year later the Huskies were 12-2 with a schedule that finished at Illinois State University in Normal. Making it even sweeter was a convincing 26-6 win over East St. Louis, which won six titles from 1979-91 and was declared the 1985 national champion by USA Today, as Tobin had touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving.
The latter, from halfback Dan Sabatello, was a testament to Glover's willingness to dig into his creative playbook no matter the stage, stakes or status of the opposition.
"I can remember him saying, 'Should we ever get in the state championship, we're not going to hold back,'" Gunther said. "The halfback pass caught East St. Louis by surprise."
As did the offense installed for Tobin that season.
"He brought the spread offense to the Northwest suburbs," Gunther said. "One of the keys to winning the state championship is we had a skill set built on speed. He went to clinics in the offseason and when we came to camp the next season we had a brand new offense. It was electric."
Glover was born in Streator and grew up in a family of educators 18 miles north of Peoria in Chillicothe. He graduated from Northern Illinois, where he met his wife of 53 years, Linda, and spent two years at Arlington before moving to Hersey when it opened in 1968 to teach math and coach. He was the offensive coordinator for Joe Gliwa when Hersey won six straight MSL North titles (1971-76) and succeeded Gliwa in 1982.
Glover also coached sophomore basketball at Hersey from 1969-74. After retiring from Hersey in 1999, he was a teacher in California from 2000-05.
"He made me feel very comfortable," Lussow said of the opportunity to coach his sons Nick and Fred Jr. at Hersey. "The door was open and it was an easy transition for me.
"It was extremely enjoyable. I respected him and he gave me mutual respect. We had a lot of fun coaching together."
Glover's creativity extended beyond X's and O's. It was also frequently on display in his unique way of answering a question.
In 1997, Glover talked about the challenge Schaumburg faced when star quarterback Kurt Kittner broke his thumb on his throwing hand midway through the season. Kittner went on to a record-setting career at Illinois and made four starts for the Atlanta Falcons in 2003.
"In the pros they can buy a guy," Glover said. "Schaumburg has got their guy hurt, but they can't call the next Mid-Suburban team with three quarterbacks and say, 'We'll trade you a bag of balls' or ask District 211, 'Can you ship over Conant's backup?' There's no waiver wire in the Mid-Suburban League."
In Glover's farewell season, Hersey finished with Wheeling in a matchup where the winner would go to the postseason.
"The kids are either going to get it done or we're going to call the (equipment) reconditioned," Glover said. "We're trying to avoid that issue."
The Huskies rose to the occasion to give Glover a memorable retirement gift with a 20-14 overtime victory and a final playoff trip.
"Thirty years of coaching football -- his longevity shows how smart and savvy he was," Gunther said. "He knew how to take care of himself and find the right balance."
Glover is survived by Linda, his daughter Stephanie (Mancini), his son Scott and two grandchildren. Services will be held on March 9 at Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church in Palm Desert, Calif.