Boys Basketball: Former Leyden coach Norm Goodman remembered for teaching skills, life lessons

Story Image TAMARA BELL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER 2/6/09 Franklin Park Former Leyden Basketball coach of 29 years Norm Goodman speaks during halftime at a home game against Willowbrook on Friday. The court was just recently named after him. Halftime ceremony of Leyden varsity basketball game against Willowbrook honoring former 29-year Leyden boys basketball coach Norm Goodman, who will have the court named after him. Also shoot game action of Leyden.

Updated: October 4, 2012 4:27PM

“Tough love” was the first description of Norm Goodman that popped into the mind of longtime Leyden statistician Jack Gregg on Oct. 4, a day after the former Eagles’ basketball coach died at Rush Oak Park Hospital in Oak Park.

Gregg began keeping basketball and football statistics for Leyden as a student in 1952 and didn’t miss any of the 733 games coached by Goodman during a 29-year career. Goodman’s teams compiled a 548-185 record from 1961-1990.

“Norm was very tough on his people, but they would die for him,” said Gregg, who remained friends with Goodman after the longtime coach retired. “He very frequently was a father and mother to some of the kids he coached.

“He always said that he was appreciative when former players came back and thanked him for having been a great coach, but what really mean a lot to him was when they came back and thanked him for helping to make them men. As tough as Norm could be on his kids, he genuinely cared about them.”

Gregg said how Goodman treated his Leyden players in public was in contrast to what he was like away from basketball.

“He was really a sweetheart, syrupy kind of guy once you sat down and talked to him,” Gregg said.

Goodman retired in 1990 from coaching at Leyden, but he never was forgotten. In 2009, the basketball court at East Leyden in Franklin Park was named in the former coach’s honor. In addition, the Village of Franklin Park designated the portion of Rose Street that runs in front of East Leyden as “Honorary Norm Goodman Way”.

Humbled at the time by the honors, Goodman said, “The whole thing is fantastic. This honor is really overwhelming.”

During his coaching tenure at Leyden, Goodman produced 14 conference championship teams and three Sweet 16 qualifiers. His 1974-78 teams won 104-of-108 games, a winning percentage of .963, the best four-year record in state history. They won 108 regular-season games in a row, also a state record.

Goodman, 82, was hired at Leyden in 1957 and became head basketball coach in 1961.

He took over as the East Leyden varsity coach for the 1961-62 season. He guided East Leyden teams through the 1980-81 campaign and remained as the Eagles’ coach when the athletic programs at East Leyden and West Leyden were combined in 1981-82.

Among those who attended the 2009 ceremony when the court at East Leyden was named in Goodman’s honor was Glen Grunwald, who earned all-state honors for four consecutive seasons while playing for Goodman from 1972-76.

Now the senior vice president of basketball operations for the NBA’s New York Knicks, Grunwald traveled from New York to be at the ceremony.

“Norm was such a big part of my life,” Grunwald said at the time. “He was just a great coach and a great leader of young men. I think it’s great that they’re naming the court for him.”

Visitation for Goodman will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Sax Tiedermann Funeral Home, 9568 Belmont Ave., Franklin Park. Eulogies will be delivered at 7:30 p.m. Private internment will take place for family only Oct. 8.

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