For the Lavoratos, basketball is in the genes

SHARE For the Lavoratos, basketball is in the genes

The next chapter in British director Michael Apted’s landmark documentary series, “56 Up,” aired on TV in the United Kingdom earlier this year and is awaiting release in the United States. I have been thinking a lot lately about the series, which traces the lives of nearly a dozen British children starting when they were 7 years old and continues until present day at age 56. Apted catches up with them for a different film every seven years. It is a project that he has devoted his life to.

Apted, who directed Hollywood films such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” and “Nell” (my favorite is “Thunderheart”), uses a quote to kick off the series in “Seven Up”: “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.”

Apted’s amazing films test that axiom. It is the best documentary series in the history of cinema. I have seen Ups at 35, 42 and 49. They are unforgettable.

The series started as an exploration of the British class system, but is now a perpetual video diary looking into the lives of these former children, and ourselves. As they age, so do we.

The destiny of Apted’s subjects is not preordained, but I was amazed at how their predictions of what they wanted to be when they grew up hovered closely to what social class they came from.

I was wondering about destiny while watching two of the three children of Tony and Mary Lavorato play youth basketball this season. Tony Lavorato Jr. is in his 10th season as the boys basketball coach at Maine South. He was 145-118 entering this season and coached at Stagg before arriving at Maine South.

Both Tony Jr. (pictured right) and his younger brother Tim played for their father, Tony Sr., the longtime former coach at Hinsdale South, who retired nearly a decade ago. The Lavorato boys were pretty good players in their day, graduating in the early 1990s. Tony Jr. went on to play at Augustana, where he would meet his future wife, Mary Wiorkowski, a basketball and softball player in college, who also played at Willowbrook.

Tony Jr. and Mary have three children: Mary, 10, Anthony, 8, and Amelia, 6. My daughter is in her first year of playing youth basketball and one of her teammates is Mary Lavorato. Mary (Wiorkowski) Lavorato is their coach for the Blueberry Crush.

I covered the careers of Tony Jr. and Tim a little bit when they played at Hinsdale South. I was just starting out as a sports writer for the now-defunct Wheaton Daily Journal. Now as I watch the next generation of Lavorato basketball players, I wonder. Which of Tony Jr.’s kids will grow up to be a basketball coach, the family’s third in a row?

The first Tony Lavorato, Tony Sr.’s father, never went into teaching and coaching. He was a postal worker in Berwyn. The next two Tonys would go on to become math teachers and basketball coaches. All four generations of Anthony Lavoratos share different middle names, but only young Anthony is known by the formal first name.

Tony Sr. and Tony Jr. are not even technically Senior or Junior, but they used that designation to clear up confusion when they both coached in the Chicago area at the same time. Anthony P. Lavorato’s great grandfather went by Tony Lavorato. His former coaching grandfather is Tony C. Lavorato and his coaching father is Tony W. Lavorato.

In the above video, I wanted to show you the Lavorato children at 10, 8 and 6. Perhaps, like Apted, I will be able to show you in another 15-20 years which Lavorato will be next to join the basketball coaching profession.

In an introduction to the “42 Up” book, Apted wrote: “We used the Jesuit saying, ‘Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man,’ as a theme, and I think the power of the project is that everybody has a different opinion about whether or not it has any truth. Some find the film depressing because they think the Jesuits were right and nothing alters what is set out at seven; others are more optimisitic, for they see evidence of change, of social mobility, with people overcoming obstacles and defying the limitations of their upbringing. For my money. lives can change, but I wonder whether the personality ever does — if you’re pushy and extroverted as a child, that never alters, and if you’re timid and shy you always will be. But wherever you stand on Jesuits, it’s certain that you’ll identify with some character or some incident in the film; it’ll touch some nerve, stay in the mind, and make you reflect on your own life. That’s why the UP films live on.”

Tony Lavorato Jr. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media


From Mary Lavorato: “I found this in Anthony’s first grade journal last year. He is in second grade this year. I sent this to Tony at school and he was very touched.

Tony Lavorato “Sr.” (left) and Tony Lavorato “Jr.” pictured 14 years ago before their teams played against each other for the first time, Sr. with Hinsdale South and Jr. with Stagg.


The many faces of Maine South boys basketball coach Tony Lavorato Jr. during a holiday tournament game last season at York. The Hawks have moved to the Proviso West tournament later this month. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media.

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