CHICAGO HEIGHTS | When Marian Catholic beat Marist for the Mother McAuley Sectional championship, Spartans coach Annie Byrne was not among those celebrating and hugging her players.
Byrne was busy picking Marist's Claire Ryan off the ground before she got trampled amidst the pandemonium. Ryan had just come back from a bad knee injury and when the Marian crowd charged the court after Ashton Millender's buzzer-beater, Ryan got caught in the celebration as a bystander.
"I felt so sorry for her," Byrne said. "I had to pick her up or she would have got run over. She just lost a tough game and I didn't want her to get hurt again."
Maybe so. Byrne and her husband Kieran are parents of 10-month-old Lucy. Like her mom, Lucy stayed away from the crowd and sat on grandfather Bill Basic's lap.
Annie juggled several roles including being a mom and coaching one of the top basketball programs in the state.
She won't take credit for being a "super mom," but said she has had a lot of help, including from her husband and parents, Bill and Jan.
"Kieran is just great because he knows my schedule is hectic, but he makes it a little less hectic," Byrne said. "My mom and dad, plus the Marian administration as well as my assistants, they are some of the reasons I can do both."
Lucy sometimes is at practice and it is not unusual for senior Megan Walsh or the other players or an assistant coach to hold her and play with her during a break.
"Lucy, she is just a blessing," Byrne said. "Great baby. It is tough sometimes being away, but like I said, I have a tremendous husband who is a great dad."
It does take a lot of help to succeed at both, but Byrne has that determination to succeed. She is the winningest coach in Marian history with a 214-51 record.
Her assistants — Toniesha Mack, Mark D'Apice, Kathlyn McClain and Mari Neberieza — have been a big part of Marian's success, as are the players.
Marian set a school record for wins with 31 and face Whitney Young at 8:15 p.m. today in one Class 4A semifinal.
Byrne also focuses on her other family — the Spartans.
"These girls are great from everything to being good basketball players to being good students," Byrne said. "This team is special, but all of my teams have been that to me.
"This team just has that little extra — that camaraderie that makes them a little special."
Byrne has been to the Class AA Final Four twice — in 2006 and 2007, her first two years at Marian.
It has been a fun year for Marian and it could end in something special at Redbird Arena.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.