Pacelli coach remembered as one of a kindPublished 12:00am Saturday, July 31, 1999
Marty Crowe did things one way.
Saturday, July 31, 1999
Marty Crowe did things one way.
In a time of conformity, the former Pacelli High School basketball coach whose teams won three state titles in Wisconsin and one at Pacelli in 1958, didn’t read a book on how to coach high school sports. He didn’t need to, he wrote his own.
Crowe died at the age of 85 Tuesday at Syverson Nursing Home in Eau Claire, Wis., three days after celebrating his 51st anniversary with his wife Helen.
"He didn’t mind bucking the system," said Orrie Jirele, a star basketball guard at Pacelli from 1955-58. "He was a little bit unorthodox when it came to coaching. He prided himself on not being a carbon copy."
Dedicated, intense, articulate, unique and perhaps eccentric could all be used to described this one-of-a-kind coach, both on and off the court.
Born Martin E. Crowe, in Helena, Mont., Crowe grew up in Stillwater and attended the College of St. Thomas, where he majored in English and social studies, competed as a debater and pitched for the baseball team. He graduated in 1938.
Crowe began a career in teaching and coaching in Wisconsin in 1941. He won two state basketball championships at Eau Claire St. Patrick’s High School (later Regis High School).
In 1950, he moved to Marshfield Columbus High School, where he started the athletic program and had enough pull and charisma to get Catholic families from surrounding towns and communities to enroll at the small Catholic school.
"They started calling us the Crowes because of Marty," said Peter Schmidt, who played basketball and football for Crowe at Columbus as well as his first two years at Pacelli.
In 1952 he began coaching at Austin’s St. Augustin High School, which later changed its name to Pacelli in the mid ’50s. In 1958 Crowe’s Pacelli team won the 1958 Minnesota Catholic title, the same year Austin High School won the state title.
Crowe took his 1959 basketball team to a national tournament in Washington D.C., that included players such as future basketball Hall of Famer and Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson. Pacelli placed third and was voted best coached team.
In the fall of 1959, Crowe moved back to Wisconsin. He would go on to coach one more state basketball title in 1964 before retiring from teaching and coaching in 1985. He continued to help with football and basketball coaching at Regis High School until 1992. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
Pacelli finished the 1958 season with a an impressive 26-2 record, considering the tallest player that saw significant playing time was 6-foot-1.
One of those players that led Pacelli to championship was Jirele, who coached basketball at Albert Lea from 1973-87. Jirele went on to play as a walk-on for St. Bonaventure, a Division I school south of Buffalo, N.Y.
"He made me believe I could do it," said Jirele, whose St. Bonaventure teams went to the NCCA tournament and were consistently ranked in the top 10. "He gave me the confidence to do it."
Jirele kept in close contact with Crowe throughout the years, helping with basketball camps.
"He like the underdog role," he said. "He liked the challenge of playing larger schools. He may have appeared gruff on the exterior but it more bark than bite."
Crowe’s pursuits went beyond teaching and coaching. He was a student of literature. Whether in the classroom, at the speaker’s podium or in a letter to a newspaper, he often shared quotations from literature.
He had a keen interest in politics and even ran for Congress in the 1940s. He wrote several plays that were produced in Austin and was active in community theater in St. Paul.
He was a sought after public speaker and wrote human interest and sports columns for several Wisconsin newspapers.
Not only did Crowe enjoy success as a basketball coach, but he was also a baseball and football coach, which was normal for small high schools during his coaching days.
As a football coach, Crowe went against the grain once again with one-back offense, a rarity until recent years.
"He hated to punt," Jirele said. "He wanted to use all four downs."
Not only was Crowe great at getting the most out of smaller players, but he was perhaps even better at getting his players to play through pain.
"We only had one guy come out of a game because an injury and he was knocked out and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher," Schmidt said.
Steve Lickteig, a four-sport star at Pacelli who graduated in 1959, said Crowe had an intense interest in sports, but his interest was much more then wins and championships.
"He was much more interested in developing young men," said Lickteig, an attorney in St. Paul, who was an all-state selection in football and baseball at Pacelli. "He was often not concerned with wins and more with morale."
"He was very much an individual," Lickteig said. "He was willing to take a stand against the norm even if it wasn’t too popular."
Crowe’s impact was not limited to his athletes either.
"I was most impressed with the importance he put on his family," said Gwen (Knox) Lickteig, who was Miss Austin in 1959 and had Crowe as a teacher. "You would always see him at mass on Sunday’s.
"Basketball and sports were important, but you would always see his wife and kids not far behind. He did a great job of managing sports and his family."
"He was always praying," Schmidt said. "No doubts where he’s at. Never be another like him."