‘Stateline Sports Memories’: A visit with West coaching legend Alex Saudargas

Sports

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — One of the biggest high school coaching legends in Rockford history is Alex Saudargas. He was the man who coached the Rockford West High Warriors to back-to-back state basketball championships in 1955 and 1956.

Saudargas passed away in 1999, but in 1993 I had the chance to visit with him in his home. That’s my latest episode of my ‘Stateline Sports Memories.’ To view that story click on the media player or continue reading.

[STORY FROM 1993]

The year was 1955 and the Rockford West High Warriors basketball team was crowned the state champion. The following year West High repeated with a second state championship. The head coach of those teams was Alexander Saudargas. Now 76 years old Saudargas remembers those teams fondly. Memorabilia from those clubs and the many others he coached fill the basement of his west side Rockford home. Saudargas has been out of coaching for 16 years, and the game he plays now is with a deck of cards.

“I play Bridge and 500 and so on.”

Saudargas has his largest team ever…his family. He has nine children, 22 grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

To know Saudargas is to know there’s one thing missing from this picture, his trademark bow tie. Yes, he stills wears them.

“The only reason I wore a bow tie is I used to wear a long tie, and when I would start selling pots and pans, I went up to Wisconsin to Lake Delevan, and I found out that all the guys wore bow ties was because the long ties got in the soup or whatever, and so that’s when I started to wear bow ties. That was in the middle ’50s.”

The gymnasium where Saudragas coached for more than a quarter of a century bears his name today. It has since 1986, but varsity basketball games are no longer played here. Saudargas says it was a sad day when West High School was closed down.

“In a way yes, because, see when you win state championships, and I had a kid win a state tennis championship…that school becomes very close to you.”

Sports is still a part of Saudargas’ life, but now he’s strictly a spectator.

“I’m a Bull fan and a Bear fan and a Cub fan.”

And I’d venture to say that around here there are still a lot of people who are Alex Saudargas fans.

Saudargas grew up in Rockford. He wrestled and he played football at Northern Illinois University. In addition to coaching at Rockford West he also coached at North Boone High School one year.

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