MIKE NIETO: Beecher's Waznonis glad to be on bench

2013-02-07T18:00:00Z 2014-01-14T17:36:16Z MIKE NIETO: Beecher's Waznonis glad to be on benchMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
February 07, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

Beecher boys basketball coach Tony Waznonis couldn't wait to get back on the sidelines this week.

He made his return Tuesday in a loss to Tri-Point and will be on the bench coaching tonight when the Bobcats play at rival Illinois Lutheran, though he said he probably won't be moving around much and will wear a back brace.

Waznonis had a spinal fusion after the new year and is lucky to even be up and about.

"I had back surgery four years ago (herniated disc) and I guess I just re-aggravated it," Waznonis said. "I hurt my back this summer working out and on Dec. 7, I woke up and could feel the pain down my left leg. I couldn't get out of bed."

His wife, Annette, is a nurse and she got him to the doctor. He said he was lucky he did not have to wait long for surgery.

The couple have a 2 1/2 year-old daughter, Annalise, and Annette is five months pregnant.

"You don't know how lucky I am not just to be walking again, though it was tough at first, but to have a loving wife and daughter," Waznonis said. "My wife is expecting our second child and I couldn't be much help to her."

He said that was rough as well as not being able to hold his daughter.

"I would lie on the floor and she would bring her toys and we would play," Waznonis said. "She would ask me 'What do you need daddy? Let me know."

Waznonis, 32, missed his team and missed being able to do routine things with his family.

"I was in so much pain," Waznonis said. "I can't describe it and I hope nobody goes through this.

"I was going to the hospital and senior citizens, people with canes and walkers were asking me if I needed help. They felt sorry for me!"

Assistant coach Bryce Shafer and girls coach Adam Keen, who was Waznonis' assistant last year, took over the team in his absence.

"It was the right thing to do," Keen said. "Tony helped me a lot and and taught me a lot about coaching, so I was just helping him out in a time of need.

"I had to pull double-duty with the girls and boys teams, but since I knew the boys from coaching before, I just moved in and helped Bryce."

Waznonis said he is thankful for the prayers and phone calls, but he is most thankful to his wife and daughter, who helped nurse him back.

"I had great support and my wife, she is pregnant and I am the one who should be helping her. Just her and my daughter's love and support was comforting," he said.

 It's been a rough 2013 for Waznonis, but knowing those who are closest to him care, helps ease the pain a little.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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