He's seen it all: Cubs coach's career includes mentor's death

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Jerry Bomholt has a longstanding practice of speaking to his former mentor every time one of his teams is about to take the basketball court.

The dialogue, though decidedly one-sided, is important to the first-year boys coach at Franklin Community High School.

It’s why Bomholt takes a moment to go off by himself to chat with Bob Fuller, who, come January, will have been gone 33 years.

An assistant coach at Anderson Highland during the 1979-80 season, Bomholt was walking behind the Scots’ head coach when Fuller died of a heart attack at age 46. It was halftime of a game at Lapel, and the men had just entered the visitors’ locker room.

For a man capable of recalling names, skill sets and scoring averages of players at all junctures of his 32-year coaching career, this is the memory least likely to go away.

“I lost, when I look at it selfishly, the best friend I ever had in coaching,” said Bomholt, 59. “And it showed me what can happen to you with all the stress in this profession if you don’t take care of yourself.”

The tearful aftermath of Fuller’s passing included a promise from Bomholt to his then-new bride, Dee Dee. He would not allow coaching to consume him to the point where it endangered his health.

Thirty-three years, 432 victories and seven varsity jobs later, Bomholt has stuck to his word. This isn’t to say his passion for the game or pursuit of triumph has waned since his head coaching career in effect began that horrific night in Lapel.

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