Let’s begin with a quick word-association.
When I say “pizza,” you think . . . cheesy . . . or hot . . . or yummy.
When I say “Malnati’s,” . . . you probably answer . . . “Pizza.”
But since this is a sports show, we’ll focus on basketball rather than food.
Rick Malnati arrived at Bradley in 1977 after a star-turn at New Trier High West. Before leaving college, Rick was named the Braves “most improved player” in 1980 and its “best defensive player” in 1981.
Rick’s father, leader of the famous Italian restaurant chain, passed away during Rick’s 1st college season. That set the stage for Malnati’s return to Chicago-Land for a 15-year-stint in the family business. Rick and his brother Marc grew up working long hours alongside their grandfather in the Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due franchises before the family launched the Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria enterprise.
But Rick’s love of basketball would not let go, and so he returned to the hardwood, first as an assistant, then 9 seasons as head coach at Winnetka New Trier High School. Malnati then coached under Porter Moser at Loyola University.
Malnati returned to high school hoops in 2016, taking over as head coach at Fenwick High in Oak Park, Illinois. There, Malnati led teams to state tournaments each season, including a 2nd place finish in the Class 3A division, before retiring in April 2018.
Malnati’s retirement finds him staying close to basketball. Rick’s son, Tino, earned a spot as an Academic-All-Big-Ten guard for Northwestern University.
So now . . I say “Malnati” . . . and you’ll think . . . well . . . either “pizza” or “basketball,” knowing both are great.
Until next time, for Stories Beyond the Scores, I’m Chris Reynolds.
Photo courtesy: Malnati’s Pizzeria