RICHTON PARK | For many people, the week following Christmas is dedicated to relaxing at home or traveling to local stores in search of post-holiday discounts.
For high school basketball fans in Chicago's south suburbs, Rich Danek can be found during that time in the Rich South gymnasium, where he lends his voice to theannual McDipper tournament.
Danek's appearances at the McDipper date back to 1980, the tournament's eighth season. Over the past three-plus decades, he has witnessed numerous notable moments as the McDipper's announcer, particularly the development of future college and professional sports stars like Kendall Gill, Tai Streets and Napoleon Harris. The 1989 tournament title game between Hillcrest and Rich South also left a lasting impression on Danek.
Danek said that announcing McDipper games has consistently been a pleasant experience, largely because of the ongoing camaraderie.
"It's like a reunion because you have that sense of family that exists," he said. "You see the same people all the time (like officials and athletic directors), and you get to know families, too."
Danek's enthusiasm for the tournament has also guided him through troubling times. In 1999, he underwent heart surgery and was idle for a few months. He said he was determined to make a full recovery in time to announce the tournament.
"I used the Dipper as an incentive," he said. "It's always exciting to come, even if the games really aren't at times."
According to Rich South athletic director Mark Hopman, Danek's continued presence at the McDipper has drawn people to the tournament.
"People expect to see and hear him each year," Hopman said of Danek. "He whips up excitement in the crowd, and we're lucky to have him."
Danek admits to modeling his announcing style after that of former Green Bay Packers sportscaster Ray Scott, who was known for his brevity. For that reason, Danek said he attempts to keep his own statements throughout a contest as short as possible.
"I concentrate on players, a basket or a spectacular play," he said. "You have to get kids fired up (in a game) by placing the focus on them."
While Danek is most associated with the McDipper tournament, he is hardly a stranger to Rich South's campus. He joined the school's faculty in 1980 and taught social studies for more than 25 years, and then in 1992 replaced Don Day as the Stars' announcer for all home basketball games.
Danek said his teaching tenure utilized skills that he was able to successfully carry over to his work on the mic.
"Teaching allows you to think quick on your feet and analyze things," he said. "Nothing prepares you better (for becoming an announcer) than being a teacher."
Although Danek retired from teaching in 2006, he has no immediate plans to stop announcing. He said that when he finally decides to walk away, he hopes to leave behind a good legacy.
"I just want to be remembered as someone who made a memorable comment while announcing," Danek said.
As for Hopman, he hopes that there are many more announcing days ahead for Danek.
"It wouldn't be the same without him," Hopman said.