50 years of courtside seats at Mundelein HS
Jim Ackley is overcome with emotion Dec. 4 as the crowd acknowledges his 50 years of working with the Mundelein High School basketball program. | Darrell Harmon~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:10AM
MUNDELEIN — After 50 years as the boys basketball scorekeeper at Mundelein High School, the school decided to honor Jim Ackley by retiring the No. 50.The announcement came prior to a Dec. 4 game against Lake Zurich. Ackley was given a custom jersey and trophy, while all players, coaches and family wore custom T-shirts honoring Ackley’s contributions. He was also recently inducted into the Lake County Hall of Fame.
Q: Why did you first start score-keeping at MHS?
A: I was the eighth-grade basketball coach at Carl Sandburg Middle School. When Mundelein High School opened in 1962, some of my students were sent there. Sandburg’s principal, John Kazarian, and I wanted to see our kids, so he would do the varsity games and I did the sophomore games. It was real fun. By 1964, he stopped all together, and I’ve been doing all levels solo ever since. I have only missed two games: one away and one home. One was in 1998 and one was in 1999. I went to fundraisers instead.
Q: Why did you keep going for so long?
A: I just love the game. You get the best seat in the house: courtside right at midcourt. It doesn’t get any better. In addition to keeping score, I go to every state finals tournament. I only missed one tournament since 1961. I was fortunate enough to be the official scorekeeper in 1993 and 1994 down in Champaign.
Q: Do you have any other basketball experience?
A: I played a little in high school, but none in college. I didn’t even play intramural ball during those college years. While I was a science teacher at Carl Sandburg, I coached for five years. When I became principal in 1964-65, I stopped coaching. The time commitment as principal was too great and those kids work so hard, they deserved someone who could completely invest in them.
Q: Throughout your time at MHS, what has been your most memorable team?
A: The 1994 team under Coach Dennis Kessel. His son was playing, and it was an outstanding team. You can’t forget that season because they lost to Libertyville in a triple overtime sectional final game in Waukegan. This Libertyville kid made a remarkable buzzer-beater to win. The shot was spectacular but heartbreaking for the Mundelein kids who fought hard from beginning to end. Libertyville finished fourth in state that year.
Q: How has high school basketball changed since you started in 1962?
A: It has improved greatly. The game is faster, the kids are more athletic and coaches have learned to teach in new ways — like watching game footage. The three-point play put a lot of excitement into the game too. If a player gets wrapped up by a defender, he has five seconds to get rid of the ball or else his team loses possession. That rule made scores soar because teams used to stall and hold the ball for five minutes straight. Eliminating jump balls on dual possession was another good change. Not all teams have height, so alternating in bounces is more fair.
Q: What is or was your favorite team to watch?
A: I’m not much of a pro basketball guy. The Bulls and Bucks are OK, but I prefer to watch high school basketball first and foremost. Mundelein being my favorite, and then I’ll watch college ball. Watching Jerry Lucas play in the 1950s was a real treat. Him with Bob Knight and John Havlicek created a solid Ohio State team. Since then, I’ve favored Duke and North Carolina. Illinois has had some good teams.