A year ago, Bruce Chubick Sr. just didn’t feel well.
Part of it was his Omaha South boys basketball team finished 9-14 in 2017-18 and missed the Class A state tournament after the Packers had made seven straight appearances there.
But there were also plenty of physical ailments bringing him down — high blood pressure, colitis issues and rheumatoid arthritis.
“I just about gave it up after last year, but at 9-14, that was hard to walk away from,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave the program where it was.”
What a difference a year has made for the veteran coach who has led South for 14 seasons and is the 2019 Lincoln Journal Star boys co-coach of the year.
A lifestyle change to a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise helped alleviate his physical problems. Then a state championship in March from his underdog squad provided an added boost of adrenaline that has Chubick looking ahead to next season.
He’s cut out processed food and limited his red meat intake to just a couple of times a month. He’s opted instead for a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and nuts and the occasional glass of red wine. He and his wife of 50 years, Dianne, walk at least 5 miles a day. And during basketball season, he’s putting in 10 to 12 miles of steps thanks to his activity at basketball practice.
“I feel much better than I have in a long time,” said Chubick, who turns 68 on July 3. “If I had not changed, I probably wouldn’t be coaching right now.”
This was Chubick’s second state title at South, the other coming in 2016, when he had Super-Stater Aguek Arop (a former Nebraska recruit now at San Diego State) and Noah Fant, a rookie tight end for the Denver Broncos after three years on the Iowa football team.
His health was also a story that season as he coached a road game on a Tuesday night in February at Lincoln Southeast while he was having a heart attack.
Chubick said he began feeling pain in his chest already that afternoon and had driven himself to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“As I started to get out of my pickup, I thought, ‘If I go in there, I’m not coaching tonight,’" he said. “So I got back in my truck, drove to school, got on the bus and came to Lincoln.”
His condition got worse during the game and the fact the Packers did not play well in the first half compounded the situation.
“I got into them a little bit at half,” Chubick recalled. “A couple of them were complaining about colds and I told them that if I can coach having a heart attack, you can play with a cold. We came out and played really well the second half.”
His wife and son, assistant coach Bruce Chubick Jr., insisted that they take him to Bryan East Campus after the game, but he convinced them to drive him back to Omaha to the NU Medical Center. The elder Chubick had two stents put in on Wednesday morning, was able to return to practice on Friday and was on the bench for South’s next game against Omaha Bryan on Saturday.
South was the front-runner from start to finish that season, its only loss coming to Colorado state champion Aurora Overland at the Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island.
It was a much different situation this past winter. Chubick took a young team filled with scrappy guards and honor students who loved to play defense and guided them to the top after a rough stretch in late January when the Packers lost three straight games to state tournament squads Bellevue West, Omaha Westside and Kearney.
South (21-6) finished with a 12-game winning streak, avenged the loss to Kearney in the first round of the state tournament, then took out Lincoln North Star and Omaha Central in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
“That 2016 team, anyone could’ve coached them, we had the best talent,” Chubick said. “This one was satisfying because no one was expecting it, except for the players and coaches. They’re all good students and good citizens, that’s what made this team so special.”
This was Chubick’s third state title as a coach — the other a C-1 crown in 1988 at Atkinson West Holt when his 6-foot-7 son was a junior Super-State player. Bruce Chubick Jr. went on to have a stellar career at Nebraska and play professionally overseas in Belgium, Portugal, France and Israel.
Chubick Jr. has been on the bench at South with his father since his pro career ended and became a mortgage broker in Omaha.
“I’m just really, really lucky I get to see him every day and spend quality time with him,” Chubick Sr. said about his son. “We complement each other pretty well because he’s soft-spoken and I get after it a little more. Hopefully when I’m done, he’ll take it over.”
Chubick Sr. is a Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln graduate who later coached there for six years in the 1990s. He played collegiately at Southwestern Iowa Junior College and Briar Cliff before taking his first coaching job as an assistant to Gene Haynes at Omaha Tech.
After one year as an assistant, Chubick has been a head coach ever since, starting first as the girls coach at Tech. After a two-year stint (1982-84) living in the mountains in Montana, Chubick returned to Nebraska to coach at West Holt for six seasons beginning with his son’s eighth grade year. After six years at Abraham Lincoln, he coached eight more in Sidney, Iowa.
Chubick’s younger son, Joe, was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was toddler, but he made it through numerous surgeries and the family persevered before moving to Montana. There, the Chubicks built a log cabin on land they owned in Deer Lodge National Forest. He cut fence posts for a living.
“You didn’t need much money,” Chubick explained. “I couldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t want to do it again. We were pretty high in the mountains. Snow on the ground for eight months. It was pretty tough. I think that’s why Bruce was always so hardcore as a player.”
Don’t ask Chubick his career coaching record. He has no idea, nor does he care.
“After all the years I’ve been coaching, if I can tell you off the top of my head what my record is, I’m not focused on the things I should be focused on,” he said.