Fenwick girls basketball coach Dave Power to retire after 45 years and 1,000 wins

The story of how Dave Power came to win more than 1,000 games coaching high school girls basketball started more than 50 years ago on the driveway outside his house in Glen Ellyn.

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Fenwick coach Dave Power with his team.

Fenwick coach Dave Power with his team.


The story of how Dave Power came to win more than 1,000 games coaching high school girls basketball started more than 50 years ago on the driveway outside his house in Glen Ellyn.

Power, then in seventh grade, was playing older sister Marge in a game of one-on-one.

‘‘I felt I kind of went easy on her, and she beat me,’’ Power said. ‘‘Then the second game, I remember trying to hip-check her, and she beat me again. Then I realized, ‘Oh, my gosh. These girls, they can play.’ ’’

But until the passage of Title IX in 1972, girls mostly didn’t have the same opportunities to play that boys did. After that epiphany on the driveway, Power went on to play high school basketball and run college track. In the mid-1970s, he got his first job out of college at Proviso East.

With girls sports just starting up, the Pirates were looking for a sophomore basketball coach. Wanting to be part of the change he thought was needed, Power took the job. A year later, he got his first varsity head-coaching job at Proviso West. That’s where he got his first victory.

There’s a story about that victory against Fenton that shows how far girls and women’s sports have come in the last 45-plus years.

‘‘Back then, the referees were PE teachers and coaches,’’ Power said. ‘‘I’ll never forget this. It was late in the game, and I looked up at their scoreboard and it had a couple of bulbs out. I said: ‘What’s the score? Are we up 55-53?’

‘‘ ‘No, Coach, we’re up 55-53.’ ’’

Those early days of homer officiating and decrepit scoreboards are long gone. Girls players have everything the boys have: summer leagues, AAU programs, high-profile tournaments and shootouts and the dream of playing in college and even the pros.

Power has done as much as anyone to help elevate the game in his three head-coaching stops. He won 82 games at Proviso West before moving to now-closed Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1982. He won his first state title there in 1987 to go with a third-place finish two years later.

Along the way, Power learned from some of the best coaches of the day. Two of his mentors were Tom Millikin and Glenn Whittenburg, who won boys state titles at Proviso East in 1969 and 1971.

And Power also coached girls track, girls tennis and girls softball.

‘‘But basketball was my love and passion,’’ he said.

Then in the early 1990s, Power heard Fenwick was going coed and would be looking for a girls basketball coach. The opportunity to build a program from scratch at one of the great athletic powers in the Chicago area was too good to pass up.

He started with only a freshman class, and the first two years were lean ones: The Friars went 1-8 and 6-18.

Soon, however, Fenwick was among the elite programs in the state, just as IHM had been. In an 11-year span starting in 2000, the Friars won six state trophies, including championships in 2001 and 2007.

The last one was extra-special for Power because his daughter Erin was a key contributor with team highs of 15 assists and nine steals at state.

Now Power is 70 years old and taking a victory lap, ready to call it a career.

His third win this season, against Taft on Nov. 19, was his 1,000th. After wins over a strong Hersey team on Monday and Jones on Thursday, he’s at 1,009 and looking ahead to one more playoff run. He’s determined not to let anything get in the way, including the broken rib he suffered in a fall earlier this month. So why retire now?

‘‘I wanted to see this team through,’’ he said. ‘‘I thought about going one more year. But I said: ‘You know what? It’s time.’ I do hope I won’t be like Muhammad Ali where you retire, like, three times.

‘‘In my mind, I think I’m totally done with it. But then there’s that little time I catch myself going: ‘Wait a minute. What if . . . ?’ Because it’s been a big part of my life.’’

For all that, it does seem fitting to bow out with this group. Power stepped in to coach his seniors this year early in their AAU careers, making it a special group for him.

The feeling is mutual, according to senior guard Mia Caccitolo.

‘‘I’ve been playing for him since fourth grade,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s a legend.’’

Which made that milestone victory against Taft even more meaningful.

‘‘It was surreal,’’ Caccitolo said. ‘‘We’ve been waiting for that moment. And to get it my senior year and a lot of my teammates’ senior year was pretty awesome.’’

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