By Linda Quinlan, staff writer, Messenger Post Newspapers
Jul. 13, 2011 Webster, N.Y.
Bill O’Rourke Jr. says he’s “absolutely pleased” to be the subject of a new book, along with his father and brother, about their 61 consecutive years of coaching and/or playing basketball in Webster.
“One of the reasons we agreed to the book is that there are a couple generations of people who don’t know what our father did, or what Tom did as a player,” O’Rourke said.
The book, written by Messenger Post sports writer Craig Potter, is a compilation of the successes attained by the father and son coaching duo, plus memories and accolades from former players and coaching associates.
Bill O’Rourke Sr. was Webster’s Varsity basketball coach, at Webster High School when the town had one high school, and at Webster Thomas when there were two, from 1950 to 1978. He passed away in 2006.
His undefeated 1961 team was voted, by a Blue-Ribbon panel, the best all-time team in the 75-year history of Section V.
Both of his sons, Bill Jr. and Tom, played for him, and Bill Jr. first became his junior varsity coach, then took over at the Varsity level when his father retired.
Tom, a remedial math teacher for grades 3-5 for going on his 37th year in Fairport schools, still holds scoring records at Webster Thomas. An injury ended his basketball career in college, but he still plays twice a week with friends. He only coached basketball for one year, joking that since his team was 11-1, “I have the best winning percentage in the family.”
More seriously, he figured coaching was too much for his blood pressure, Tom said, “and I love to play.”
While the O’Rourkes were longtime Webster residents, Tom now lives in Victor, and Bill Jr. and his wife, Marsha, moved to Fairport four years ago.
Potter said that in researching the book, the only other long-running father-son coaching duo he found was Jeff and Scott Fitch in Fairport, “and they’re 18 years behind the O’Rourkes.”
Jeff Fitch has a contribution in the book, which has a first chapter dedicated to Bill Sr.; chapter two, Bill Jr.; chapter three, Tom; chapter 4, the 1961 team; chapter 5, the 50-year celebration; chapter 6, the Hall of Fame inductions; and chapter 7, team pictures from 1961.
The final chapter in the book includes reflections, from former players and colleagues, about what the O’Rourke family has meant to Webster and the extended basketball community.
Photos of all 61 varsity teams father and son have coached are included in the book, as well are photos of some of the junior varsity teams.
There also is a photo gallery, which includes Bill Jr.’s 400th career win, which is pictured on the front cover — which is navy blue, white and gold, the Webster Thomas colors.
The idea for the book started in 2008, Potter said, when he was assigned to do a feature on Bill O’Rourke Jr.
“There was so much material, I couldn’t put it all in one newspaper article,” he said.
While Potter began working on the book in November 2008, the idea started gaining momentum when the brothers, Tom and Bill Jr., were inducted into the Section V Hall of Fame Nov. 20, 2010. Their father had been inducted in 2003.
In the meantime, Bill Jr. had located pictures from a 50th year celebration — marking 50 years of O’Rourkes coaching basketball in Webster — in 1999.
“We decided we wanted to leave something behind, some written record,” Bill Jr. said.
Potter says there’s still a second edition to be written, since Bill O’Rourke Jr. has not yet retired, and he’d still like more information, particularly on teams from 1966-68 and 1974-76. He welcomes submissions.