Editor's note: The following story ran in the October 2010 issue of Marquette Magazine. Hank Raymonds passed away Dec. 6, 2010. We invite readers to continue to share treasured memories of Hank using the comments section below, or visit Marquette Athletics website to submit condolences to the Raymonds family and read the memories shared by others.
by Dan McGrath, Jour '72
More than 33 years after he coached a game and nearly a decade since his death, Al McGuire is still remembered as a charismatic showman, still regarded as the face of Marquette basketball.
Hank Raymonds remains the program's soul.
That truth became abundantly clear this past summer, when dozens of ex-Warriors and Golden Eagles reached out to their former coach upon learning that Raymonds, 86, is battling cancer.
Hank Raymonds spent 26 years in athletics at Marquette, the first three as an assistant to Coach Eddie Hickey. Then came a heady 13-year run as McGuire's indispensable right-hand man, followed by another 10 as his successor as head coach and athletic director. The university presented Raymonds with a $10,000 check at his retirement, but he returned it, insisting the money be used to start a scholarship fund for non-revenue sports.
Yes, Raymonds officially retired in 1987, but in truth he never left. He has remained a courtside presence at men's basketball games and a supportive regular at women's basketball games, at soccer games, at volleyball games — anywhere the Golden Eagles compete.
"Marquette was his life," says Rick Majerus, a longtime associate and eventual successor who is now coach at St. Louis University.
Majerus considers Raymonds a friend and mentor, and he's hardly alone. Raymonds has been a wise, reassuring father figure to hundreds of Marquette student-athletes over the years and a favorite instructor to just as many ordinary students. His "Theory of Coaching Basketball" was a popular course among sports-minded men and women, whether they hoped to coach the game or merely understand it better.
"Hank has been one of the most important people in my life," says George Thompson, Sp '69, the first All-American of the McGuire-Raymonds era who later broadcast Marquette games and worked his way up to vice president at Briggs & Stratton Corp. "He has always been there for me and for countless other players with the right advice on what you should do and maybe shouldn't do. He always made so much sense. He's probably the one most responsible for a lot of players getting their degrees and being successful after basketball."
Marquette's location on the fringe of downtown Milwaukee makes it an urban school by definition, but the student population is predominantly white, suburban Catholic. That could be a challenging environment for the inner-city African-American kids from New York and Chicago who formed the tough-minded core of a good many Marquette teams. Along with Ginny, his wife of 60 years, Raymonds was always there to help with the adjustment, offering calm, caring counsel in those moments when even a college basketball star was homesick or dealing with self-doubt. Dean Meminger, Arts '71, a New York high school phenom and 1971 All-American who played point guard on three great Marquette teams, considered Raymonds a surrogate father, someone he could talk to about anything.
"Hank is the reason I stuck it out at Marquette," Meminger says. "If I was having an academic problem or any type of problem, I could go to him for help. He wouldn't let me quit, wouldn't let me get down on myself."
They reconnected this summer for the first time in several years when Meminger visited Raymonds while in Milwaukee for a charity golf tournament hosted by Bo Ellis, Sp '77. "Hank told me I was his favorite," Meminger says. "Even after all these years, it made me proud to hear that."
Raymonds always insisted that Marquette players use basketball as a means to an end. Life goes on after the cheering stops, he told them, so get an education and be ready for it. In recruiting, Raymonds promoted Marquette as a lifelong experience, not just a four-season basketball interlude. That approach made the difference in landing Chicago prep star Bo Ellis, a four-year starter and future pro who played on two Final Four teams and was co-captain of the 1977 NCAA champions.
"When Coach Raymonds was recruiting me, my mother trusted him," Ellis remembers. "He promised her he'd look after me if I came to Marquette, and he did. Every ballplayer has a memory of Hank standing in the middle of the gym on the day we registered for classes. He knew what everybody was taking and where we had to go to sign up for it. I never would have received a degree from Marquette if it hadn't been for Coach Raymonds. I don't know if there's ever been anyone who cared more about his players."
Raymonds' care and concern did not expire with a player's eligibility. He maintained strong relationships with Marquette athletes after they moved on.
"Most coaches will do things for you while you're playing," says Michael Wilson, Sp '82, a four-year starter at guard under Raymonds who today lives in Atlanta and is a manager with a shipping company. "But how many keep in touch and stay involved with you long after you're done? Coach Raymonds and I talked almost every week. Whenever I went to him for career advice or any sort of decision, he was there for me. His wife, too."
Lloyd Walton, Sp '82, a standout guard from 1974-76, recalls Raymonds as "a gentleman's gentleman" who helped him survive an occasionally turbulent relationship with McGuire.
"Hank was the antithesis of Al," Walton says. "Al was so charismatic that he overshadowed Hank. But Al could not have been Al if Hank hadn't been Hank."
At McGuire's insistence, Walton curbed his freewheeling style and ran the team at the more deliberate pace McGuire preferred. Walton believed his game was better suited to professional ball, and he was crushed when he lasted until the third round of the 1976 NBA draft ... until he talked to Raymonds.
"Hank said, 'I know you're disappointed, but there's no doubt in my mind you can play in the league. You're going to have to bust your butt and prove that you can.' That's exactly what I did," Walton says.
Walton, now a counselor for the NBA Players Association, remembers another call from Raymonds as his pro career was winding down.
"I was six credits short of my degree," Walton says. "Hank knew it. He said, 'Let's get your butt up here and make your mother proud.' He knew the courses I needed, and he set them up for me. I can't imagine how many guys he helped like that."
Raymonds at his core was a basketball coach, a good one, having developed powerhouse teams at St. Louis University High School and Christian Brothers College before coming to Marquette to rejoin Hickey. McGuire had the good sense to retain Raymonds when he took over in 1964, and they formed an ideal partnership.
"Hank was a reality check for Al," Majerus says. "He really stayed on top of all the detail work so Al didn't have to worry about it. They complemented each other like two people in a good marriage."
Digger Phelps, who fought many battles with Marquette during his 20 years as Notre Dame's coach, calls Raymonds "the brains behind the scenes" for McGuire.
"Al was a psychologist and a great motivator, but he wasn't much of an X's-and-O's guy. Hank was, and Al trusted him," Phelps says. "Hank wasn't in it for personal satisfaction. He never sought the spotlight, never tried to upstage Al. He was content to stay in the background, make Al look good and help Marquette win. Everyone in the game knew what a good coach he was. Take away Hank Raymonds, and Al is lost. Al would tell you that, too."
Kevin Byrne, a Baltimore Ravens vice president who was Marquette's media relations director during the 1977 championship season, says McGuire appreciated Raymonds' value.
"Al used to tell me that Hank was too humble for his own good, that he'd be lost without him, that people would realize what a terrific basketball coach Hank was "if he had a little more [jerk] in him," Byrne says.
But the "jerk gene" bypassed Raymonds. He was an old-school coach, at home in the gym, in it for the kids, incapable of any kind of self-promotion.
"People like to say they put the team first. Hank did — the team always came first," Byrne says.
Perhaps the most appropriate tribute to a good man's legacy comes from Robert Byrd, Arts '80, who was a freshman reserve on the NCAA title team and a three-year starter under Raymonds. The "life after basketball" message took with Byrd, as did the example of putting kids first. Byrd opened Bridging the Gap, which is currently in use as a community center for kids just off the Marquette campus and will soon feature a computer lab/reading room known as the Hank Raymonds Educational Center.
"I'm just doing what I was taught to do," Byrd says. "It's a thrill for me to open the learning center in Coach's honor to let people know about this man. The strongest part of our relationship was beyond the athletic arena. With the glamorization of the game, today's athletes don't have many men like Hank Raymonds around, and that's unfortunate. I'm a better person for having him in my life."
Dan McGrath, Jour '72, is a longtime journalist and current president of Leo High School in Chicago.