Last night was "Dick Diener Night" at the Fond du Lac Fieldhouse as the Fond du Lac Booster Club, fans and former players and coaches honored the former Cardinal Coach before the Cardinals win over Kenosha Bradford. It was a great night.
The biggest home crowd of the year filled the fieldhouse to say "thank you" to the coach. Now normally, a non-conference game against a winless team over the Christmas break may be one of the smaller crowds of the year...but not last night. It was a great turnout, with lots of former players and coaches at the game.
It was amazing, before the start of the ceremony, the former players and coaches started to walk on the floor from the north doors of the fieldhouse...and the line of people kept going, and going and going....you wouldn't believe how many people showed up to honor coach Diener...but then again if you know the program, you would believe it. If you played Fondy basketball, whether you were the All-State player or the 12th many you are part of a group of people that will be tied together forever and will be there if you need something. You saw that last summer for Drake Diener's Cagers For Crohn's Event where over 80 former players from all over the country showed up for the first ever charity event. It was the same last night. They all came back to say "Thanks Coach." The Booster Club ended up giving Coach Diener a new set of golf clubs and a great looking framed photo of him in a coaching huddle.
I came to Fond du Lac and started covering the team in 1996. I remember being some punk college kid and later that year hanging out at State Street Brats in Madison between sessions of the Boys State Tournament. I was by myself just watching the games, when a group of guys came up and asked if I was Wade from KFIZ. I said yes. It was a group of parents and coaches from the Fondy Basketball program. They invited me to hang out with them and made me feel welcome. I still remember that to this day. I was just some kid, who really had no connection to the team, I didn't actually do the play-by-play for the games like I do now, but just was at the games with Chuck Freimund it was a great feeling to have them come and invite me to spend some time with them. That was my first true experience about how Fondy basketball was a more than just a group of players, but a family.
After the game last night, there was a nice party at the Eagles Club and it was great to kick back and talk about some of the great moments in Coach Diener's years at Fondy. Most of the players from the pregame ceremony were there. Even some coaches from other FVA schools took the time to drive down to wish Coach Diener well.
On the floor as well last night, the Cardinal boys pulled out a 57-50 win to make the night even sweeter. Coach Zakos' team is starting to get better and I think they will get the ship moving in the right direction after the New Year.
Again, Coach Diener is a great man and a great coach, who has done great things for Fond du Lac and Fond du Lac High School. Last night was a great night to say "Thank You."