Funds sought for scholarship to
honor Illini Central Coach Giesler
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[November 28, 2017]
winningest basketball coach in a school’s history gets cancer, it
begs a community response, so former Illini Central Coach John
Giesler’s supporters are creating a scholarship in his name for boys
in the school’s basketball program.
Funds are being solicited from school alumni, fans, players and
their families. Organizers hope to have the Coach Giesler
Scholarship in place at Illini Central High School by this spring
for a senior planning to enter a trade school or two- or four-year
college or university upon graduation.
"The District is honored to be associated with the Giesler
Scholarship,” said IC Superintendent Mike Ward.
“Throughout his career at Illini Central, Coach Giesler positively
influenced students, and his teams were a rallying point for the IC
community. We are grateful that he will continue to have such a
positive effect on students through this generous scholarship. We
all wish Coach Giesler our support and love as he continues his
Giesler requested the scholarship be designated for a boy who has
been active in the school’s basketball program.
“My hope is it will go to somebody that can use it to further his
education and achieve his goals in life,” Gielsler said. “I
appreciate the school making this scholarship possible.”
The scholarship is consistent with the history teacher’s coaching
philosophy as he sought not to make just great players but also
“I was more into teaching an understanding of what to do in certain
situations than teaching them set plays and just having them run
from point A to point B but not understand why they do that,”
Giesler said. “While that was what was important to me
basketball-wise, I wanted my players to learn more than basketball
skills. I wanted them to learn things that they could use to develop
as successful people once they graduated and moved on in their
lives. Things like the importance of hard work, working with others,
respect for others, handling adversity and being well prepared for
“I was especially proud when someone from outside our school
district and community commented on how well our players conducted
themselves on or off the court. These things meant as much to me as
how well they played the game.”
A coach for over 30 years, John Giesler recently was notified he
will be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association
Hall of Fame.
Giesler served as head coach of the IC Cougars Boys’ Basketball
program from 2003 to 2014. Prior to those years, he was the
assistant coach from 2000 to 2002. During his twelve year tenure as
head coach, the Cougars record was 208 wins and 139 losses. His
teams won four Sangamo/Tomahawk conference titles and four regional
Giesler’s teams were known for their tenacity and commitment to
defense, and these traits resulted in the most dominant run in
school history. In 2011-2012, the Cougars finished 3rd in the IHSA
1A State Tournament. In the following season Coach Giesler and the
Cougars won the IHSA Class 1A tournament finishing the year as state
[to top of second column]
Coach John Giesler is in the
huddle with his team that won the 2013 1A state title. Now his extended “team”
is being called to honor the coach’s name.
John Giesler began coaching as a volunteer at Trinity Lutheran
Grade School in Stewardson. Later, and while he was finishing his degree and
getting his teaching certificate, he became assistant and then interim head
coach at Stewardson-Strasburg High School. From there he moved to Roanoke-Benson
to teach history and social studies as well as coach.
“I got into teaching history because I loved it, almost as much as basketball,”
His next move was to Mason City Illini Central, and following that he was
assistant coach at Lincoln College.
In addition to the on-court accomplishments, Coach Giesler’s commitment to
discipline, toughness and hard work influences his former players today. The
tenacity and toughness that he instilled in his players is seen in Coach
Giesler’s fight against cancer.
Coach’s pancreatic cancer was detected a few months ago.
“With treatments, they gave me a year,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of
pancreatic cancer survivors out there.”
While he is working defensive plays for his own life now, he continues to coach
everyone who will visit his Facebook blog, where he inspires others to make the
most of each day and make a difference.
He has instigated fundraisers and gift drives that benefit not himself, but
other cancer victims, and has been quite successful in his newest endeavors. A
golf outing he asked his family to carry out raised $13,000 for pancreatic
cancer research. None of the proceeds went to him.
“I feel I was very blessed throughout my life,” he said recently from his home.
“So many good things happened, I can’t complain. There’s got to be some bad
things in your life. It’s something you accept. I always felt there is a reason
for things that happen. I think God had a plan. Sometimes you don’t understand
that, why you end up where you’re at. I think this has a purpose and we’ll make
the most of it.”
People wishing to pay it forward with Coach’s scholarship should mail donations
to Mrs. Laurel Giesler, Illini Central C.U.S.D. 189, 208 N. West Ave., Mason
City, IL 62664 or Mason City National Bank, 104 W. Pine, Mason City. Make checks
payable to Coach Giesler Scholarship Fund.