Harley Knosher said it best.
Who else, after all, could do it better?
At a recent press conference at Knox College in which Dan Calandro was named as the Prairie Fire's new Athletic Director, Knosher-- retiring as AD after 40 years -- said, ''Of all the basketball players I ever coached, I'd have to pick Dan as the captain of my team.''
And so it is that Dan Calandro is now the Captain of Knox's Athletic Department.
Dan Calandro is back-- sort of. As a freshman student at Knox in 1973, Calandro stayed isolated on the Knox campus and chose not to integrate himself with Galesburg. To this day he regrets that. ''It was nothing the community did,'' said Calandro, ''It was my choice and I regret that.''
He played basketball back then -- for the Siwash and Coach Knosher -- and was on some pretty good teams. ''I was never a star player,'' said Calandro. ''I just tried to get the ball inside to Dave Woodward.'' A former Silver Streak, Woodward is the all-time leading scorer in Knox basketball history with 1,829 points.
After graduating from Knox in 1977, Calandro coached Sparta High School (Illinois) in basketball and baseball. He then coached one year at college before accepting a job with the NCAA in Overland, Kansas, where he spent 13 years and lived in suburban Kansas City.
Now he's back in Galesburg.
Dan Calandro is easing into his job. It was a big move for him and his family. Despite a busy schedule, he took the time to meet with us last week in his office on the Knox campus for an extended interview to talk about a wide range of topics.
1. To start this off, the obvious question would be what led you to Knox College as a student in 1973?
I fell for Harley Knosher's ability to make Knox feel like the right place for me. Actually, I had already decided on Millikin University in Decatur and put down $100 on deposit. Before that I had considered the University of Illinois but would go there just as a student and not play basketball. I liked Millikin but came up to visit Knox and it was the place for me. The hardest part was telling my Mom because $100 back in 1973 was a lot of money.
2. A little known-fact is that you actually hold a record at Knox in basketball for the fewest fouls (28) committed during a season. But that 1977 team your senior year was a pretty good one wasn't it?
We were 4-4 at one point in the season but then won 13 straight games before losing to Monmouth to end the regular season. Then Beloit pounded us in the playoffs. We had Dave Woodward on our team, just a tremendous player. My job as a guard was to get him the ball. Woody made it easy. He could handle any pass into the post, it didn't matter. He never complained about any pass sent into him. Woody was a strong, physical player. If he was taller, he would have been at a Division I school.
3. How much difference is there between the Division III basketball players of today and when you played?
They're much stronger and quicker. They're not any taller and don't jump any better but overall, the players of today are more athletic.
4. What's the biggest difference between the Galesburg of 1973 and the Galesburg of 2000?
I never engaged with the community as a student. I knew very little about Galesburg. I refereed basketball games at the YMCA and student-taught for Hal Devore at the high school but I never got into the community. Now, I'm much more appreciative of the community. When I was accepted for this job, my wife asked where we should live at and I had no clue. That was ignorant and very embarrassing but true. I just knew so little about Galesburg.
5. For years, Knox has been more or less isolated on the near south side of Galesburg. What can the community do to get closer to Knox?
It's more of what Knox should do to get closer to the community. We need to get Knox involved with the community. I was very excited about coming here. I have two boys, ages six and four, and this is a great place to raise your children. It's an established community. I like the charector of the homes, the big trees.
6. As the new Athletic Director, what do you think will be the biggest change in sports during the next decade at Knox?
Thirteen years at the NCAA has shown me that womens athletics is growing from every angle. It just hasn't stopped growing. If you provide them with the opportunity, that particular sport will be played. The interest is there. But financially, it's difficult in terms of new sports.
7. Harley Knosher was the big recruiter for Knox College. Will you actively be recruiting like he was?
The college decided that the new Athletic Director wouldn't be recruiting. Harley was making something like 2,300 phone calls a year recruiting kids. He spent a lot of time at that. But recruiting will fall more to the coaches and we have to find them a way to do more of that. There are several options. First, we can use more student-athletes to make the calls. Second, we can use our own staff to handle some of the burden. My job is to coordinate that. Another significant change is that we're going to name a full-time track and cross-country coach, which will cover six separate sports. That coach will also be responsible for recruiting.
8. What will you spend most of your time doing the first year at Knox?
I hope to spend most of my time evaluating how the Athletic Department functions. Are there other ways to do this? How can we manage the Department better? That isn't meant to be critical of how things were done, not at all. I need to evaluate them and see if it can be done better. I need to focus on our staff and not on attendance, corporate sponsors or facilities. But I also want to continue what's going on here right now in making the student-athlete feel like a special person.
9. Have you met many of the Prairie Fire athletes yet?
Yeah, we had a social gathering just the other day. Just an informal thing, where all of the students could come and meet me. It was a nice turnout and they would come up and introduce themselves to me. I can't wait until I get to know them all, to see them play and get to know them better.
10. Since you're a Knox alumni, I have to ask you this. How did you feel about when the college changed the nickname 'Siwash' to 'Prairie Fire''?
I wish that it hadn't changed but I'm not mad or upset about it. I believe that the folks who made that decision did so in the best interest of the college. Would I still like it to be Siwash? Probably, but their decision was made based on good information. This isn't a big issue to me but I certainly don't want to downplay it.
11. It's certainly an issue that other colleges and professional teams have had to deal with.
A lot of the issues we deal with come up everywhere else. This is a good example. It's happened at St. Johns. It's happening at the University of Illinois.
12. Have other alumni talked to you about this issue?
I know that some people are upset about it but this is still the same place. It still has the same sounds, the same train noises. I know it was a unique name and there was a lot of interest in it. Controversy was a good sign in that the interest about the name was there. One time at Lawrence, we were introduced as the Knox ''Swishers''. We laughed a lot about that.
13. You were involved with the Division I mens basketball championship committee at the NCAA. What did that entail?
I was one of a staff of 10. My specific job was ticket dispersement, hiring officials and helping to get the facilities ready.
14. Is there major concern at the Division I level over young college players leaving for the NBA?
It isn't all doom and gloom. An example would be at Duke University. Duke fans cheer players wearing 'Duke' on the front of their shirts. They aren't overly concerned about what name is on the back of the shirts. The same goes for North Carolina fans. Or Kentucky fans. At Illinois, they're going to cheer for Sergio McClain or any other player who wears their uniform.
15. What did you major in at Knox?
Originally I was going to major in math but after the first year I changed to history. I really enjoyed Rodney Davis' class. I loved his stuff.
16. Where did you play high school basketball?
Murphysboro. My senior year, we were 26-3 but lost in the Super-Sectionals.
17. What's the biggest difference between Kansas and Illinois?
It goes back to sports again. I watched the high school basketball tournaments and it was exciting and brought back a lot of memories. That hasn't changed in Illinois. High school basketball is great. I know it is here in Galesburg and it certainly was in southern Illinois where I grew up. The gyms were always sold out, the rivalries were very intense.
18. It's pretty comparable to basketball in this region of the state isn't it?
Very much so. Collinsville, Centrailia, Mount Vernon, Murphysboro, there's a lot of great basketball towns there. Nashville has an incredible gym, it dwarfs the high school. It's a palace. Their coach there, Dan Lee, is a real bright guy. I was his coach in college.
19.You're just the third Athletic Director in the history of Knox College. Has that sunk in yet?
I was talking to my old high school coach and told him just that and he replied, 'Now that's the epitome of tradition' and I couldn't say it any better. My wife was kidding me that even if I stay here 20 years on the job I'd be letting the school down.
20. Were you surprised when Harley Knosher said at your press conference that he would pick you as his all-time basketball captain?
Well, I was never a star player but I appreciated what he said. But now, my job is to make this team, this staff, a better team. To make this Athletic Department even better than it already is.