We say Illinois, former Illini swimming coach Jim Lutz says ... one Custard Cup turtle sundae, please.
“Is there a better example of Americana than sitting outside eating a frozen dessert on a summer night?” Lutz asks from Arlington Heights. “I think I had a reaction to the custard — maybe an early issue with gluten — because on the way home, I would always start sneezing.
“But it was worth it, no doubt.”
It’s been nearly two decades since the women’s swimming coach with the top winning percentage in program history (.615) called C-U home.
But Lutz has vivid memories of three frequent stops — two still open, one no longer with us — from his seven seasons here.
— There’s the dearly departed Aunt Sonya’s — “a must whenever we had recruits in town.”
“This was the ‘Illini Place,’ as the walls had memorabilia from days gone by to current teams and highlights,” Lutz says. “The owners were big Green Bay Packers fans, which I though was ironic in a town colored for the Illini and the Bears.”
— Another favorite memory: a golf outing on the Orange and Blue Course with former Illini track coach Bob Wright.
“It was a short par-4 that runs north to south along the airport fence. He had two good shots; his second had him above the pin, 18 to 20 feet away. He read the break perfectly and drained it while it was picking up speed.
"Had it missed, he might have been chipping back onto the green. He threw his hands up and I think the putter may have slipped out of his hands and flew a few feet away.
"The smile and the joy on his face blinded me from any other memories of that day on the course. Coach Wright was a good man, quick with a smile and a joke, and always left people feeling better about themselves.”
After going 59-37 at Illinois, Lutz spent three years as head coach at Michigan State.
From there, he says, “I took the better part of a year to heal from some health issue that knocked me down pretty hard. I spent about 13 years with New York Life and two years ago accepted the general agent position for the Knights of Columbus covering Chicagoland and the Archdiocese of Chicago from Midway Airport to Wisconsin in Cook and Lake counties.”