Basketball’s hold over Paul Pryma is strong.
One year into retirement, and Pryma is back on the bench, having accepted Tom Livatino’s invitation to join the Loyola staff for the 2016-17 season.
On Tuesday, Pryma will go up against one of his former teams when the Ramblers take on Evanston in the Class 4A sectional semifinals at Waukegan. Pryma was the Wildkits’ head coach from 1999-2004. In five seasons, he went 105-35 and finished fourth in Class AA in 2003.
“This is the first time I am playing them since I left, and I am really excited,” he said. “So many of this year’s Evanston’s coaches are former players of mine who I hold in high regard.”
Livatino, an Evanston graduate, was on Pryma’s staff for two seasons, including the 2002-03 team. The two talked last offseason about the possibility of Pryma helping out the Ramblers when he could, and it evolved into Pryma joining the staff as a full-time assistant. Loyola assistants Todd Gierke and Aaron Hamilton also were part of Pryma’s teams at Evanston. Gierke was a coach, while Hamilton was a player.
“He brings a tremendous amount of experience and has a tremendously positive nature that infuses a lot of confidence in our players,” Livatino said. “He also looks at the game differently than I do, from personnel to style to drills. That’s exactly what I want, a different opinion, a different way of doing things. It ultimately allows me to make the best decisions for the team.”
Pryma was an assistant at Fenwick and St. Patrick before becoming head coach at St. Ignatius in 1986. He stayed with the Wolfpack for six seasons, winning one Class AA regional title. Pryma then took the job as Highland Park’s athletic director, hiring current Giants head basketball coach Paul Harris in 1999.
But he missed coaching too much and returned to the bench with the Wildkits.
“It’s such a luring game,” said Pryma, who wrote a 2014 book on basketball titled “Coaches of Chicago: Inspiring Stories About Leadership and Life.” “Evanston provided me an opportunity to coach again and get back in the classroom to teach.”
Following five successful seasons that included four regional titles, Pryma returned to administration. He was Glenbrook North’s principal for seven years until he retired in 2015.
But once again, the basketball court came calling.
“I am so grateful to be working with Tom who is one of the best basketball educators I’ve ever known,” Pryma said. “He was such a strong assistant for me at Evanston, and we’ve always been good friends. He’s done a great job of surrounding himself with extraordinary coaches, and I am happy to be one of them. It’s been an enjoyable experience and journey.”