Donnie Boyce | Forest Park Review || Below: Boyce during his return courtside on March 2 || Brian Jackson/Chicago Tribune
Thursday, March 3, 2016 || Originally Published: Chicago Tribune || 3/2/16 || By Bob Narang
Proviso East senior guard Antonio Williams gasped for air, putting both hands on his knees to take a quick breather late in Wednesday’s game against St. Ignatius.
The game’s frenetic pace caused Williams to deal with a sudden bout of fatigue. Part of the reason Williams felt so tired was because his former coach, Donnie Boyce, returned to become his coach again.
Boyce coached his first game for the Pirates after being fired 14 months ago. Williams credited Boyce with helping Proviso East pull out a 64-54 win against the host team in the Class 4A St. Ignatius Regional semifinal.
“It was a big game, a statement game and we kept the pressure up, Williams said. “This is my first time all year playing full-court pressure the whole game, so I got tired. Coach Donnie didn’t let us relax at all.”
After leading the Pirates to a Class 4A runner-up finish in 2012 and a fourth-place trophy in 2013, Boyce, a security guard at the school, was suspended midway through his fourth season, when a cellphone video showed him choking a female Proviso East student while breaking up a fight.
Boyce was part of the “Three Amigos” with future NBA players Michael Finley and Sherell Ford, who helped lead Proviso East win the Class AA state title in 1991.
Two months after the incident, Boyce was fired. He was reinstated in February, with Wednesday’s regional semifinal his first game back coaching the Pirates.
Boyce said he had coached “about five” practices before Wednesday’s game.
“I came back last week and felt like I was back in college cramming for the finals,” Boyce said. “The whole team did an excellent job under the circumstances. It’s great to be back.
“It’s not the ideal situation, but we will make the best out of it. The timing wasn’t ideal, but I was really happy to see the kids in a short amount of time resemble some of the things we worked on in practice.”
The Pirates erased a one-point deficit with an 11-0 run to close out Wednesday’s game against St. Ignatius. The Pirates will play No. 11 Riverside-Brookfield on Friday in the regional title game.
“We have a huge mountain to climb,” Boyce said. “We’re back to business and I’m very elated.”
Boyce immediately put his stamp on the Proviso East program. His fiery personality on the sidelines sparked the Pirates’ defensive effort and late comeback. Cedrick McCulloch, who coached the team in Boyce’s absence, returned to an assistant role Wednesday.
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