Former Schaumburg star ends college coaching dream

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Mark Pancratz (left) with his dad Andy and younger brother Zach pose in their Schaumburg basement in 2000. | Stacia Timonere~For Sun-Times Media.

Mark Pancratz this week did something he has been unable to do the last seven years since leaving the Chicago area for Knoxville, Tenn. He came home for Christmas.

The former Schaumburg boys basketball star, who led the Saxons to their only state championship in 2000, brought his family home to Schaumburg to see family and friends. His sister, Drewann (pictured right), is in her second season as girls basketball coach at Leyden and for the first time Mark Pancratz was able to see his sister coach on Dec. 23 against St. Viator in the opening round of the St. Viator Snowflake tournament. On Dec. 20, Pancratz watched the Saxons’ home game against Fremd. It was the first time he saw Schaumburg play since he left for Knoxville.

As the former video coordinator for the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team, Pancratz has been forced to work over the holidays and has been unable to return home. He married Brooke, a Tennessee native, and the couple have a daughter, Charli, the first grandchild for Mark’s parents Andy and Jeanette. Mark and Brooke have another child on the way in two months. Jeanette Pancratz is the longtime girls volleyball coach at Schaumburg.

Sometimes one of the hardest things in life is giving up a dream. It happened to Mark earlier this year when he decided to resign from his post as a support staff member for the Volunteers. Pancratz’s dream was to coach Division I college basketball someday, but never received the opportunity at Tennessee, especially after former coach Bruce Pearl was dumped for former East St. Louis and Purdue star Cuonzo Martin more than a year ago.

Pancratz called it quits in September and wrote a lengthy, heartfelt farewell letter through his blog to Volunteers fans. Pancratz’s blog entry covered it all, summing up the difficulties of raising a family while working a 24/7 job with little pay and little reward. It’s a position many others have faced trying to live a similar dream. Pancratz was a former star high school player and played for UW-Milwaukee, but could not find a way to make a living in college basketball after his playing career was done.

“The reason I wrote it had to do with many things. For whatever reason, people look up to me or they value my opinion sometimes,” Pancratz said.

A newspaper columnist in Knoxville added more details about Pancratz’s decision to resign from Tennessee.

At the end of Pancratz’s blog entry, he makes an appeal for a job.

After reaching Mark earlier this week, here’s an update. Mark has joined his younger brothers Zach and Jake in the financial industry. He is a financial planner for Northwestern Mutual in Knoxville, and on the side he does radio and TV analysis for Tennessee along with serving as a personal trainer for young basketball players. Zach, who played with Mark o the Schaumburg state championship team, is a financial planner in Orlando, Fla. and Jake works for J.P. Morgan Chase in Chicago.

Mark and his family were scheduled to fly back to Knoxville on Dec. 26.

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