Things have come full circle for a father-son coaching duo.
Omaha South head basketball coach Bruce Chubick I guided South to its first state Class A hoops title in a quarter century last year with help from assistant Bruce Chubick II. Thirty years ago the father coached the son to Atkinson-West Holt’s Class C-1 state title. Considered among the state best small school players in history, the 6-7 son played four seasons at Nebraska and eight more professionally.
Today, the Chubicks coach 6-6 senior Aguek Arop, who they feel has a huge future. In 40- plus years, Chubick I can count on one hand his elite players. Since 2013 he’s had one beside him on the bench and another performing for him on the court. Just as Bruce Jr. pursued hoops dreams, Arop, a former Nebraska commit, may be off to prep school to eventually pursue Division I and pro careers.
But first they hope to land in Lincoln for another state title run.
“Little” Bruce grew up around hoops. “We kind of knew from the get-go he was special,” his dad said. Before ever suiting up for his father, the two made a pact. “We agreed when he’s on the court he’s just another player and I’m just another coach, and off the court there was not going to be any critiquing of what went on during practices or games.”
“If anything, he was probably harder on me than he was on the other players,” Chubick II said, “but I knew the reason why – he expected more. I’d been around the game longer. There were some days I didn’t like what he said to me, but I understood the reason.”
Coaching together is special.
“How many people get to say they had a chance to coach with their dad? That’s a great thing. I’ve been approached by a few schools about coaching them and I said, ‘I made my dad a promise that until he’s done, I’m here.’ Philosophically we’re pretty close. He listens but he doesn’t miss a whole lot. With his experience he sees a lot more than I do. He’s got so much knowledge.”
At 65, Chubick I is the metro’s oldest coach. Even after surviving a heart attack and winning it all, he returned this year because he promised his star, Arop, he’d see him through his high school career.
Forget about the senior Chubick being too old.
“What he’s teaching still works. He’s adapted his style to match the times,” said the son who reminds his excitable dad to ease down.
“There are times when he has to get after these guys and I’m like, ‘Maybe we need to back down about one click because I don’t want to try out my CPR skills right now.’ But he’s fine. Stress is something that concerns me. Hopefully, we assistants help ease some of that. I’ve taken a lot more responsibility.”
Besides, with South an annual contender, it’s no time to retire.
“We’ve kind of built something here and it’s fun to see. He thought about hanging it up a few years ago. He said, ‘If I stop, what do I do?’ and I said, ‘Exactly. As long as you feel you’ve got something to give the school and your energy and health is there, why would you stop?’ He’s earned the right to be able to stay in it until he feels like he can’t or doesn’t want to.”
Chubick I confirms “I still like being around the kids.”
Meanwhile, a player they both admire, Arop, reigning Nebraska Player of the Year and sure-fire bet to be 1st team all-state again, has carried more of the load after South graduated a talented senior class.
“He’s been pretty patient with going from one of the best teams in the history of the state to playing with a bunch of inexperienced guys,” Chubick I said. “If I was in his position, I think I would have been on people’s butts. He’s just not that way.”
Despite his star lacking a supporting cast like last season’s 28-1 squad, the head coach said his team’s gelled after a mid-schedule lull.
“They’re coming around. I said at the beginning of the year if we won 14 or 15 and made it to Lincoln that’d be a heckuva year. We’re right there. I think that’s what’s going to happen.”
If they make it, the Packers will go as far as the shy Arop carries them.
“I think he knows if he doesn’t we’re not going to reach our potential, Chubick I said.” He has to step up and show leadership. It can’t all come from the bench.”
Chubick II sees Arop doing well post-South. Several colleges are eying him.
“His work ethic’s great. Skills-wise, he’s ahead of where I was, no question. His ceiling is not anywhere close to where he’s at right now.”
Chubick I sees a player “cut out of the same fabric” as his son.
“I don’t know if Aguek’s quite as hardcore, but he’s got that same drive. His motor runs hot all the time. He plays both ends of the court. He’s a team player. Aguek’s a winner.”
It takes two to know one.
Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.