By Phil Brozynski
To the volleyball world, Dave Boze was a difference-maker, an innovator, a pioneer and a legend.
He was also a husband, father, grandfather, a good friend and a mentor.
Boze passed away Monday at Northwestern Hospital due to complications from COVID-19. He was 80 years old.
“Dave Boze was a legend,” said former St. Francis coach Peg Kopec. “He was a pioneer who adapted as the game matured. He made volleyball and life fun. His personality filled a gym. His clever humor was always intact along with his dapper dress.”
As a high school student-athlete, Boze was a star on the baseball team at Mendel Catholic High School on the far south side of Chicago. A 1959 graduate and Hall of Fame inductee, he briefly pursued a professional baseball career before turning his attention to teaching
He was a teacher, counselor and administrator for more than 35 years, and left an indelible mark on girls volleyball.
“Dave loved the game, but even more, the players who he coached,” Kopec said. “Once you were his player, you were part of his very large extended family for life. Dave added so much everywhere he coached. He always made a significant difference.”
Boze established the first volleyball club in the Great Lakes Region more than 40 years ago when he founded Circus Volleyball Club. Boze, who was nicknamed “Bozo,” gave the new volleyball club its name when it was often referred to as “Dave Boze’s Circus.”
Boze started with one freshman team and grew a club that had a rich history in competing and winning at the AAU national level, garnering four national titles, five silver medals and three times finishing third … all within a short time after the club’s founding.
Circus alumnae include Rolling Meadows graduate Liz Berg (North Carolina), a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Volleyball Team, and 1988 Chicago Tribune Player of the Year Vikki Simonis (Palatine), who led Circus to two national titles.
“Dave has been a great friend to all of us for the past 40-plus years,” said Sports Performance’s Cheryl Butler. “He was very thoughtful, bright, witty, and he truly cared about those people he came in contact with.
“He was a great coach to many and an even better friend to all who knew him,” Butler said.
Boze also coached at Fremd High School in Palatine, where he guided the Vikings to a 33-6-3 record and a fourth-place finish in the IHSA 1987 Class AA tournament. Ironically, Fremd lost in the third-place game to St. Francis, where he would later serve as an assistant coach.
“I’m so shocked at his passing,” said Hersey girls volleyball coach Nancy Lill. “As a young coach, he was my mentor. I coached for him at Circus and coached against him for years in the Mid-Suburban League.
“The impact he had on coaches and athletes through the years in club and high school is evident by the great number of lasting friendships he had with those he once worked with. His focus was always not just on the athlete, but the person.
“Dave Boze will live on through the lives of his athletes and all he worked with,” Lill said.
Curtis Pinley, who is retiring as girls and boys volleyball coach at Fremd at the end of the school year, served as a girls’ volunteer assistant under Boze and butted heads with him during the spring while Pinley was coaching the boys’ team at Palatine and Boze was leading Fremd’s boys.
“We really battled for years on the boys’ side,” Pinley said. “It was a unique dynamic. I knew some of his players in class and in the hallways. So there always was a ‘friendly’ banter between me and the players, especially on game days.
“Dave could take his teams to the next level. When we played one another, his teams were always prepared. He had a way to motivate his athletes to get the absolute best out of them. Afterward, he was always complimentary and we had a mutual respect for one another when he stepped away from coaching at Fremd.”
Pinley learned about Boze “the person” during the time they spent together on the girls’ side.
“Coaching with him during that girls’ season, I saw another side of him,” Pinley said. “It was most important for him to connect with his players. He used humor, knowledge about the girls’ lives, or just asking about their weekend as a way to connect with his athletes.
“I saw his biggest asset was building relationships. I could see him doing that every practice. I respected that in him. So if he did get after them in a match, they accepted the critique because they knew how much he cared about them as a person.”
Boze also served as a coach for the Chicago Breeze in the short-lived Major League Women’s Professional Volleyball League, and recently, served as an assistant coach under Peg Kopec during St. Francis’ run of four consecutive state titles from 2012-2015..
“The St. Francis Volleyball family is grateful for his years as a Spartan,” Kopec said. “He will be missed by many, always making a lasting impact on those who were blessed to make his acquaintance.”
Visitation is from 4:00-8:00 p.m. Friday, January 28, at Laird Funeral Home, 120 South Third St. (corner of Third and Oregon) in West Dundee. Prayer services to be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 29, at the funeral home.
“He touched so many lives,” Pinley said. “His love of volleyball was really the vehicle he used to connect with others. Knowing him so many years, that truly was his gift. You knew he cared about you and was truly interested in your life.
“It was hard to coach here after such a legacy was left by him at Fremd. He connected with me throughout the years and was always following Fremd volleyball. It helped me to realize that he still held a place in his heart for Fremd. I was glad to carry the torch for a while.
“There was no replacing Dave Boze,” Pinley added. “The best that I could do is try to take all those positive things he brought to the table and try to continue them to the best of my ability. He will always have a huge presence in Fremd volleyball.”
And a huge presence among his friends and those in the club volleyball community.
“He was a great man, and was so important to volleyball in this region,” Butler said.
By Phil Brozynski