Swise's humor influenced youth for years

Friends remember longtime coach, teacher, athlete

Monday, March 26, 2007

GALESBURG - A man remembered for his strong relationship with children, as both coach and teacher, died Friday. Russell "Bucky" Swise was 87.

Harley Knosher, retired basketball coach and athletic director at Knox College, and now professor emeritus of sports studies, remembers Swise from the days when Knosher was a young coach.

"I think probably the first thing that comes to mind with anybody who had a close relationship with Bucky was an extraordinary ability to communicate with young people. He was a master at getting young people to listen to him," Knosher said.

Knosher said when he came to Knox College, he learned a lot from Swise in that context.

"He had a good sense of humor," said Bob Morgan. Swise was Morgan's teacher and coach at Hitchcock Junior High School, then Morgan in 1962 took over the coaching reins from Swise at what by then was Churchill Junior High School.

Knosher also recalled Swise's sense of humor when Swise was assisting him at Knox.

"I can remember sitting next to Bucky at a basketball game and you think the world's at stake," Knosher said.

Swise, however, would holler at a player shooting a crucial free throw, "'I bet you a Coke you can't make this.' "

Anything to relax the players, Knosher said.

Knosher said Swise also loved to tell stories about kids.

"They don't forget him, either," Knosher said. "Whether they were his kids at Hitchcock or college kids at Knox."

Knosher, who will speak at Swise's funeral Tuesday, said one thing he will mention is "This guy was one of the greatest athletes of all time in this area."

Swise was a member of the Galesburg High School and Knox-Lombard athletic halls of fame.

He said Swise was not only good at basketball and baseball, he could beat you at golf or badminton.

"He was probably one of the greatest badminton players in this part of the state until he was in his 60s," Knosher said.

Retired Register-Mail sports editor Joe Morrissey remembered John Thiel having a reunion of GHS basketball players from different eras. He said there were free throw contests, in which each former player would have five attempts.

"He made the first four, then he bounced the ball into the basket and made his fifth," Morrissey said.

Morgan said Swise coached at Hitchcock at a time coaches had to handle baseball, basketball, track and football.

"He was a very sincere guy and he cared about the kids," Morgan said. "He was organized. He was good for the kids of that age, he had a good temperament."

Morgan said a good sense of humor and a gentle temperament were necessary coaching students in grades 7, 8 and 9.

"When they come in as seventh-graders, they're asking you for everything and when they get to be ninth-graders, they think they know everything," Morgan said.

He said Swise influenced his students and athletes - he also taught physical education - literally from the time they were kids to when they became young men.

Former GHS basketball star and coach Barry Swanson said he knew Swise from Rotary and from First Presbyterian Church, as well as when Swise was co-owner of Gale Ward Sporting Goods.

"They were really good to me, as far as equipment" when I was a young coach, Swanson said. "He was a great guy. He was very personable, a great story teller. He loved to give advice to young people."

Both Knosher and Swanson said Swise also was an amazing musician. Knosher said someone could hum any song and "he could play it (on the piano) and I mean play it with great finesse and beauty."

Swanson noted the Rotary emphasizes "service above self."

"He really lived that," Swanson said, "being unselfish and caring about others."

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