Recently retired Nicolet girls basketball coach Corey Wolf had a hard job in the days following the Germantown baseball team's stinging 5-4 loss to Oak Creek in the WIAA state baseball championship game on July 20.
Because her husband and father to her three energetic, already sports-minded children is second-year Warhawks coach Jeff Wolf. An even-handed, low-key but acutely aware individual, Jeff was observed by his wife to be seen doing that rare thing of moping around the house while the state runner-up trophy sat on the kitchen table ringing out a silent beacon of how close the Warhawks had come to 100 percent glory.
Not to mention coming this close to matching his wife for career success.
"It didn't help," said Corey of the positioning of the trophy before it was eventually turned over to the school.
Out of sight, if not out of mind.
Corey could only shake her head in chagrin. It had to be Oak Creek that Germantown lost to, the very thought also ringing a loud bell in her head, as Oak Creek basketball teams had stung her Nicolet squads in WIAA tournament play in both 2009 and 2010.
"That name (Oak Creek) is a dirty word around here," she chuckled. "Maybe it's something we both have to go through."
And Corey found herself in an unusual position in a different way. She recently stepped down from her post to devote more time to her children (all of whom are 7 or younger).
North Shore power couple
She and Jeff are the original power couple of coaching in the North Shore. Corey was a fierce all-state basketball guard at Nicolet in the mid-1990s under her maiden name Bronson. You can't throw a rock in the North Shore without it landing at the feet of a Bronson doing something well athletically.
And then came Nicolet's "royal" wedding of her to Jeff. Jeff is the son of retired Nicolet Athletic Director Frank Wolf (who can be seen at almost every Germantown baseball game and every Nicolet girls basketball game).
Jeff was a head coach for years at Horicon but was better known for his long-term tenure as assistant to Nicolet Hall of Fame baseball coach Dick Sykes. Jeff was at Sykes' side when the Knights won a remarkable WIAA state championship in 1998.
Corey didn't stop competing after the wedding, taking part in Sunday open gym hoops games with her just as talented sister Lindsay, as the pair frequently stunned college-age guys with their skill and intensity.
She coached at Nicolet for nine years with all three of her children being born in that time. She led Nicolet to six conference titles, but here's where her rÃ©sumÃ© diverges from that of her husband's. With a highly touted, much-scrutinized class, Corey led the Nicolet girls basketball team to its first-ever state title in 2011.
Just as she supported Jeff this past summer, Jeff supported her in that arduous and occasionally mine-laden path. They have both taken advantage of their extended families for childcare from time to time but their strength as a couple was what saw them through the occasional pitfalls of public success.
"I tell you, she's the greatest coach in this house," said Jeff with only the tiniest trace of humor. "I tried to talk her into staying (at Nicolet), because she's just extraordinary. Her knowledge of the game is amazing, and she just gets it. She's been through some low points, so it's really nice for me to be able to come home to some real wisdom.
"It's because we have shared experiences. We do what we think is right and work hard to be consistent and fair. We demand that the kids give everything they have at each practice and each game, and we both like to emphasize playing as a team."
Corey throws all the compliments right back into her hus band's lap.
"He was the real rock here (during the 2011 title run), there's no way I would have gotten through it without him," she said. "… He's very interesting as a coach. We have very similar philosophies.
"… I don't know anything about baseball, but the principles are basically the same and we can relate well in that aspect. You come home after a game or practice and you have an issue about someone's intensity or effort or you're just having a hard time getting through to someone.
"You get home, sit down across the table and ask 'What do you think of this?' It really helps to get another perspective."
Not to mention that having similar occupations always helps the interesting concept of marital communication.
"You appreciate what your spouse is doing," Corey said. "He knows what it's like to be spending so much time away from the family doing scouting or being at the gym. It can be hard on the family and he has always been 'Do what you have to do,' because he always did what was best for the family and the team.
"He made it easy on me."
Kids keep dad busy
Corey has stepped back now into a quieter, if not always easier, life as physical therapist, wife and mother. She was happy to come to Ritzenthaler Dream Field this summer as the Warhawks made their run to a North Shore title and their second state tournament berth in three years.
She always had the kids in tow, the couple's youngest always wearing his ball cap, with his over-sized glove on his hand.
Corey admits she had no magic words for Jeff after the disappointing title game loss, just as he probably didn't for her after her own tough losses to Oak Creek.
As always, time is the great healer, as Jeff's moping soon stopped. When you get him on the phone, you always hear giggles and peals of laughter in the background as he is carting his rambunctious children here and there as Corey works during the day (the school year will start soon enough for him).
He clearly enjoys his job as dad as Corey does hers as mom.
Jeff will head back to Germantown next spring for another splat of leather and another crack of the bat, while Corey will not hear the familiar bounce of the ball on the gym floor this winter for the first time in quite awhile.
In Jeff's mind, that's only a temporary condition.
"Some time and sometime soon," he said, "she will get back to coaching basketball and the sport will be much better for it.
"We'll see," laughs Corey, as always grateful for the healthy dose of respect.
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