By Maggie Devereux

Distinguished Alumnus Mike Korcek talks to an American Studies class on Friday, Oct. 9.  (Photo by Samantha Scott).

Distinguished Alumnus Mike Korcek talks to an American Studies class on Friday, Oct. 9. (Photo by Samantha Scott).

Staff Writer

Basketball is a sport millions of viewers and fans crowd televisions and pack stadiums to watch every winter . The intensity of the players, the unfair calls made by referees; it all gets fans going and excited to cheer on their team. College players and “professionals”  take the spotlight, but one fan found his inspiration from his hometown’s high school basketball team.

And that inspiration eventually led to 1966 Prospect grad Mike Korcek’s appointment last week as a Distinguished Alumnus during the 2009 Homecoming festivities.

Korcek worked on The Prospector his senior year of high school as the Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Columnist.  At Prospect,  Korcek  “kinda fell in love with basketball.” Although never on the team, Korcek played intramural. High school basketball was always the “purest form of the sport,” he said, whereas college and professional tended to get “seamy.”

“It’s something I kind of latched onto,” Korcek said about basketball. His love of the game, as well as reading eventually led him to Rm. 220, to be a part of  The Prospector. Here, he got his start at what he would make a lifelong career.

“I knew then what I wanted to do,” said Korcek.

At Prospect, Korcek learned one thing that is necessary to be a good writer: have a good adviser. Brenda Miller was Koreck’s adviser while on The Prospector’s staff, and she gave him the push he needed.

“She marked up my copy, boy, she did,” said Korcek. Yet, she added a crucial comment that Korcek took to heart. “Someday, you should look into being a sports writer,” Korcek remembers her writing. “And Bingo,” it hit him that he really could become one.

After Prospect, Korcek moved on to Northern Illinois University. He walked into his freshman year with one thing in mind.

“I said ‘hey, I wanna cover sports.'” Korcek said.  He began his way at the bottom, covering boys cross country his freshman year. By junior year, Korcek had made his way up to being the Sports Editor of NIU’s paper, The Northern Star. He didn’t stop there; senior year he became the sports media coordinator.

After graduation, Korcek was given a low draft number and enlisted in the U.S. Army. During his time he was a sportswriter and copy desk man at the European Stars and Stripes, in Germany.

“We were U.S.A. Today before U.S.A. Today,” Korcek said about the paper. Back then there were no cell phones or Internet, so It was their job to get news on the war out.  This included news and sports scores from the entire U.S.

He returned back to NIU to continue in journalism. He became assistant sports information director, or SID. Being an SID required more work than ever. He was working before a game and after. If his friends all wanted to go out for a drink, he couldn’t go. Instead,  he would work until two a.m., and be back at the office at nine the same day.

“There’s no shortcuts in journalism.” Korcek said. You have to be willing to have late nights, and get up early. Yet, when you look at how happy others are with your writing, and when your doing something you love, you know it’s worth it.

Interviews were a great part of the job for Korcek. One most memorable interview was with Al McGuire, coach of Marquette boys  basketball. He was the goofy guy that didn’t have to know names, but was in your face.

“I must have had 20 pages of notes,” said Korcek. Those notes consisted of many funny stories, and Korcek knew he wanted to make this one of the best stories he had even written. Sadly, it turned out to be his worst, but the interview still made a lasting mark.

Although all of his work wasn’t top notch,  Korcek still received a long list of awards throughout his career, and he has his favorites. Being inducted into the Illinois basketball Coaches Hall Of Fame and become a Distinguished Alumnus are two awards that really made Korcek proud.

Sports have given Korcek a career that lasted over 37 years.  Starting at  Prospect, he has made his way to Germany and back.  He has received over 15 awards, and has gotten the chance to interview the best in their courts, fields or diamonds. Basketball remains the one thing that made it all possible.
“I’ve been dunked on by everybody,” said Korcek with a smile.

Look for a profile of the other Distinguished Alumnus, Dr. Don Greco, tomorrow on ProspectorNow.com