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Tatalovich has reason to hoop it up

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As Adam Tatalovich's daily fortunes go, all that's missing right now is that bubbly Miller Beer truck driver chortling about the "high life" and giving this 1996 Hobart grad a hearty slap on the back.

In the world of high-stakes gambling, they'd say Tatalovich is on a roll.

He was an average player at Hobart and later cut as a student manager at Indiana University before finally earning a spot. He lost his mother to an aneurysm at age 52, once held four summer jobs -- three at one time -- to defray the cost of tuition and books at IU, and sacrificed much to care for arthritic father Milan.

So it's with great pride that Tatalovich recalls his past, his refusal to give up, his love of basketball and a feverish commitment to learn all he can about the game.

At age 30, he's finally enjoying the payoff.

In his second season as the Chicago Bulls' head video coordinator, Tatalovich recently returned from the tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla, where he served as director of Vlade Divac's Youth Basketball Academy for underprivileged children. It featured between 50 and 60 kids, ages 8 to 18, on an outdoor court with two baskets, in the searing sun, and most having to run off afterward to their menial jobs.

"I came back a better person," Tatalovich said. "I wouldn't say those people live in poverty, but when you see the houses they lived in, a lot of those kids probably don't leave the island. That island's mainly for tourism. There's not much irrigation for crops. Food's real high-priced. The taxes for eating out are real high."

Even so, Tatalovich had a blast working with former Los Angeles Lakers star Divac, one of pro sports' most legitimate humanitarians. Both are Serbian and painfully aware of the isolation, poverty and displacement of many ethnic groups such as theirs.

"I'm trying to get back to my roots, stay connected and help out," Tatalovich said.

His tedious journey required the patience of a saint. After graduating from IU, he worked at a junior college, then as a grad assistant at Dayton, at various IU camps, for the Gary Steelheads, Michael Jordan's Flight School, the Sport Youth Foundation in Gary, for renowned NBA trainer Tim Grover and now the Bulls.

"I was active almost the entire time, from beginning to end," he said. "I'm a busy body."

While playing for Keith Hipskind at Hobart, Tatalovich learned a valuable piece of advice that has basically shaped his philosophy toward teaching the game: "Coach told us if you can learn two things each day, then it's a successful camp," he said.

Tatalovich recently got a phone call from the video coordinator of new Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles, Adam's former boss in Chicago, who wanted his man to get some valuable pointers from Adam.

The payoff continues.

Such a compliment has no price tag.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at ahamnik@nwitimes.com.

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