Jerry Wainwright will be a friendly face when DePaul visits Marquette
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org February 7, 2013 9:40PM
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, right, shouts to his team during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against Louisville, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville defeated Marquette 70-51.Marquette assisistant coach Jerry Wainwright, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:32AM
Jerry Wainwright and DePaul parted ways Jan. 11, 2010, with the coach fired and the team in the throes of a 22-game regular-season losing streak in the Big East.
When they meet again Saturday, Wainwright will be on the sidelines as an assistant for No. 24 Marquette (16-5, 7-2) against a still-struggling DePaul (10-12, 1-8).
But there won’t be hard feelings.
‘‘Absolutely no hard feelings,’’ said Wainwright, 66. ‘‘I truly respect what DePaul stands for and how they treat people. I’ll always be better for that experience. I was obviously disappointed, but that [losing record] was on me. I was never angry or disillusioned.’’
Athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, who hired Berwyn native Wainwright after Dave Leitao left for Virginia in April 2005, has no hard feelings, either.
‘‘It’s never easy when you have to part ways with a coach,’’ she said. ‘‘You make an investment in time and their success, and they do the same. You create a connection and a bond.
‘‘We speak to each other and have a lot of respect for each other. I’m really happy for him since he’s had to deal with health and family issues, and he’s back at it and close to his home and family.’’
Times were difficult for both sides when Wainwright was dismissed with two years remaining on his contract. He limped out of his last news conference on crutches with a broken leg after a freak in-game accident. Months later, he had surgery for a hernia, then learned he had prostate cancer, recovering from that as well.
Last season, Rodney Terry, his former assistant at North Carolina-Wilmington and Richmond, asked the 16-year head coach to join his new staff at Fresno.
‘‘It was great for me to get back on the floor,’’ Wainwright said. ‘‘It was kind of refreshing to get away from all the things a head coach has to do in today’s times.’’
But illness in his wife’s family kept her in Cincinnati while Wainwright was on the West Coast.
‘‘I was going to stay two years, but it was difficult on my family,’’ he said. ‘‘I was literally going to come back [to Chicago] and watch my grandson play football at Oswego and see guys like [former assistants] Gary DeCesare [coaching at St. Rita] and Tommy [Kleinschmidt coaching at Gordon Tech].’’
Then another young coaching friend, Buzz Williams, called last summer offering the job of director of basketball operations at Marquette.
‘‘I love how he is with the kids,’’ said Wainwright, who was elevated to assistant when Scott Monarch was dismissed in an infractions case. ‘‘It’s a good, young staff, and I think I’ve been able to help them.’’
His five years at DePaul weren’t without success. His 2007 team went 20-14 overall and 9-7 in the Big East, its only winning conference run.
‘‘I would have loved to have gotten to a point where we could have turned the corner,’’ Wainwright said. ‘‘The faculty and students at DePaul and the administration were great to me. The ‘people part’ was terrific.
‘‘I was really sorry it didn’t turn out better, but I was never embarrassed, and I don’t think I embarrassed them. I had a chance. I would have liked a longer chance, but no regrets, just rewards.’’