All through this whirlwind run to the surprising WIAA State D2 title his team recently won, Whitefish Bay boys basketball coach Kevin Lazovik has been respectful of his roots.
Of coming up through the Bay system as a player and working with Jack Bleier and Jeff Thielke, and to his work with legendary assistant Jim Smallins and to the amazing amount of legwork his own staff has done.
But he knows how that staff got built and he credits former head coach Dave Shaw (now at Pulaski) and former boys program assistant and now head girls coach Greg Capper for laying the groundwork for his remarkable success these past two years.
"Working with these guys the past eight years I really picked up a love of the game," Lazovik said. "I really learned to like what they were doing. I was really fortunate to be able to learn from both Capper and Shaw. Just great, great teachers."
And the pupil has learned well, for just as Shaw did two years ago in his last season with Bay, Lazovik has earned NOW All-Suburban Coach of the Year honors.
To put it mildly, it's been a long, productive road since he started working with the program as a young assistant fresh out of college in what he saw as a "good, fun summer job."
Career and life moved fast on Lazovik in the last two years, because shortly after Shaw announced he was leaving Bay to move back closer to family in Pulaski, it was unclear what was going to happen to the Blue Duke position.
"But Dave gave me a good recommendation and I went to John Gustavson (Bay Athletic Director), who was very interested in me," said Lazovik, who, as it has been well documented, was a guard on the Bay state teams of 1996 and 1997, "but then I found out that my wife Ginger was expecting too. I had cleared one hurdle (with the coaching position), but we hadn't quite anticipated the other (the baby)."
"The timing just wasn't what we expected (laughs)."
Baby Caroline was born during the 2009-10 season and is doing quite well, said Lazovik. During that time, he wasted no time making his mark with the Blue Dukes.
"The first time we played them that year," said Germantown coach Steve Showalter, "they totally annihilated us and were just running downhill on us. Right away, it was clear to me that he (Lazovik) knew what he was doing. He had his strategy set and he was well-prepared for anything we were going to do.
"I saw that I had to do a lot of work to prepare for him in the future."
Bay finished third in the North Shore that year behind All-Suburban guard Johnny Johnston and made a spirited run to the WIAA Division 2 sectional finals before losing to eventual champion Catholic Memorial.
With Johnston as well as other guards gone, but with an experienced front-line returning, the Blue Dukes were cautiously optimistic going into this season.
That optimism got tested right away as a challenging early schedule led to five losses in six games including back-to-back North Shore defeats to Nicolet and eventual league champion and WIAA Division 1 sectional titlist Germantown.
One solid meeting with the team and the gradual development of new varsity guards Paul Anton, Kelin Johnson and Will Davis later, the Blue Dukes had themselves a 10-game winning streak, including a thrilling nonconference win over Greater Metro champ Marquette and a sound retribution victory over Nicolet.
But then came the second moment of truth for the Blue Dukes. Germantown ended the winning streak with a solid roadblock of an effort, and then Bay fell back into bad old habits again, losing to North Shore second-line team Grafton and then a couple of games later, faltering against a sound Homestead bunch.
This time the players themselves realized they had to do the heavy lifting as a player's-only meeting followed.
"We shouldn't have had those losses," said All-Suburban senior forward and state tournament hero Ron Patten. "We'd been goofing off in practice and not staying interested in what we needed to be doing. We knew we had to be working harder than we had been…and when we started goofing off, coach really began kicking it into high gear."
Wins over Cedarburg and Milwaukee Lutheran to end the regular season secured second place in the North Shore for the Blue Dukes but gave no indication of the magic that would prove to be the six-game sweep of the WIAA tourney.
One highlight followed another, the gut-buster regional final win over Nicolet, the miraculous sectional final triumph over heavily-favored Wisconsin Lutheran and then Jame Schneck's astounding tip-in at the buzzer against Seymour in the state semifinals.
It all made the astonishingly easy title game victory over Merrill seem almost anti-climatic in comparison.
Patten said that the constant throughout the run was Lazovik.
"He'd still be after us to keep working hard, but he was such a calming influence (during tough moments)," said Patten.
Showalter noticed that too.
"Kevin seems to have such a great demeanor on the sideline," Showalter said. "He always seems to stay positive, always motivating the kids. He seems to be a player's coach. The kids seem to want to perform for him.
"And when your kids like you (like that), that's always a big help."
After the state title, Gustavson, a former highly successful coach for the Nicolet girls himself, said that Lazovik wouldn't change because of all this success.
And at heart, you get the feeling that the second-grade teacher at Richards Elementary (a two-minute drive to the high school), isn't going to.
"There really wasn't any additional pressure (to succeed because of his background)," Lazovik said. "So I just went out there and tried to prepare the team as best I possibly could and develop the kids to the best of their ability."
"I still feel that this all hasn't sunk in quite yet. I just feel so fortunate to have coached such a talented group. There are a lot of talented coaches out there, phenomenal coaches who haven't had the opportunity we had.
"I'm just very grateful for it all."
Final season record: 20-8 (9-5 in North Shore, tied for second)
Lazovik's two-year varsity mark: 39-15
Varsity staff: Smallins, Kevin Moore, Ron Radmer and Chris Wentworth
Seniors: Jamie Schneck (15.3 ppg.), Patten (14.3 ppg.), Cal Ehrke (8.7 ppg.), Paul Anton (starting point guard, 89 assists); Cole Woodliff, Dan Umland, and Jack Beck.
COMPLETE SEASON RECORD
Franklin, 51, Bay 45,
Racine Case 67, Bay 59
Bay 67, Milwaukee Ronald Reagan 31
Wauwatosa East 64, Bay 46
Nicolet 42, Bay 38
Germantown 79, Bay 63
Bay 55, Port Washington 52
Bay 63, Dominican 48
Bay 61, Grafton 39
Bay 64, Homestead 54
Bay 63, Cedarburg 35
Bay 71, Milwaukee Lutheran 58
Bay 72, Hartford 40
Bay 70, Nicolet 41
Bay 59, Port Washington 39
Bay 58, Milw. Marquette 55
Germantown 75, Bay 62
Grafton 51, Bay 45
Bay 67, Shorewood 44
Homestead 60, Bay 53
Bay 68, Cedarburg 39
Bay 60, Milw. Lutheran 45
Bay 65, Messmer 41
Bay 44, Nicolet 41
Bay 41, Wauwatosa West 30
Bay 51, Wisconsin Lutheran 50
WIAA D2 State
Bay 54, Seymour 52
Bay 65, Merrill 49
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