Jerry Savage, the former legendary basketball coach at Loyola Blakefield, died Saturday morning at age 77.
On Feb. 23, Savage suffered an ischemic stroke, an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. While in recovery, he died Saturday of natural causes.
Those close to Savage said he was a great coach, but a much better man.
"He had a balanced life. He loved his family, he loved coaching and he loved sports. He balanced it all and affected everybody he came in touch with," Baltimore Catholic League commissioner Jack Degele said. "He's left a legacy of doing things the right way and being a gentleman. He'll be remembered forever because he affected so many people. He's admired by everybody and for someone to live a life like that is very impressive."
A New Jersey native, Savage came to Mount St. Mary's on a basketball scholarship and finished with 1,159 points to be inducted into the school's sports Hall of Fame.
At Loyola Blakefield, he went on to coach in five different decades, starting in 1968 and stepping down in 2003. In 35 years, he went 607-457 and guided the Dons to five Baltimore Catholic League championships, 14 appearances in the title game and one Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown. In 1972, he was instrumental in creating the BCL and led the Dons to the first league championship that year. In 2011, he was a charter member of the BCL Hall of Fame.
Playing under Savage was much more than winning games and learning the X's and O's. Mark Rohde, a 1972 grad who came to Loyola as a freshman the same year Savage took over the program, said he became more aware of that fact the older he got.
"Just the way he went about things," said Rohde, who was a star senior on the first BCL title team and a BCL Hall of Famer. "I played basketball for a number of years and you see different styles from coaches. His really was about being properly prepared, paying attention to the fundamentals, playing against the game and not necessarily the opponents, and those things really stick with you as you go on.
"It's like, 'Boy, we run these same stinking drills every day,' but then you have instances where they would pan out. That attention to detail — giving your best, being the best you can be and being satisfied with that win or lose. Jerry was a very competitive person and always wanted to win, but just those things back then, the older I get, I realized how blessed I was to have him in my life at that point in time."
After retiring in 2003, Savage still kept close tabs on the BCL. He kept the league's official scorebook for every semifinal and championship game and also played a major role in helping create the BCL Hall of Fame. Each season, the league gave out the Jerry Savage Player of the Year Award to its most outstanding player. On Feb. 22, the night before he suffered the stroke in the early morning, he was keeping score of the BCL semifinal games at Towson University's SECU Arena.
Longtime St. Maria Goretti coach and fellow league Hall of Famer Cokey Robertson remembers how welcoming Savage was and how much assistance he provided when the Gaels joined the BCL in 1985. When Savage was courtside, it was a different story.
"We were always great friends and you always saw Jerry as a very laid-back gentleman, but once that ball went up he was one hell of a competitor — with the kids, with the officials," said Robertson, who spent 34 years at St. Maria Goretti. "Between the lines, there wasn't too many better than him. His teams were always well prepared and I don't think the people knew how fierce he was as a competitor. You didn't see that from the image he portrayed as he walked, that slow, gentlemanly gait he had. When the ball went up, he was a different person."