New Berlin - The area lost a legendary local football coach on Thanksgiving when 82-year-old Frank Granger passed away after fighting several illnesses.
Granger was the head football coach for New Berlin Eisenhower for 21 years and the head baseball coach for 17 years. His record was extraordinary.
As head football coach, his teams won nine conference titles, seven state playoff appearances (twice runner-up) and five straight conference championships in the 1980s.
His teams had three undefeated seasons and, even more impressive, only three losing seasons. In his final seven seasons, his record was an amazing 47-5, a .904 winning percentage.
His record at Eisenhower was 131-71-3 and 143-81-4 overall with stints at Waterloo and Mineral Point high schools.
Respect a big component
When asked about what made their father so successful, both sons Tim and Brian Granger, also high school coaches, came to similar conclusions.
"One of the biggest things I witnessed and took away from him was the way he respected all the players," Tim said. "He was never demeaning, never degrading, we never yelled or raised his voice. I try and model my own coaching style around that as well. He was the single greatest influence on me and why I do what I do today."
Brian saw the same thing in his dad.
"He was always so prepared. He wanted to do it for the kids," Brian said. "He always did everything for the kids, getting the kids to play for him.
"He was very relaxed. There was not a lot of shouting. He knew how to take care of young kids. He realized how to get them to perform at their best."
Granger's honors are also impressive as he was recognized for his work by his peers and the media.
He was the Waukesha Freeman Coach of the Year in 1981 and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Alumni Coach of the Year in 1986. He was named head coach to the South team in the annual Shriner's game in 1988.
Perhaps his greatest honor was being inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002.
"He was incredibly intelligent in football and baseball," said Tim. "He was always a student of the game, re-inventing things, working on new ways to get better.
"He made playing sports a lot of fun. Kids loved and enjoyed playing the game. Sometimes you don't get that very often."
Active, even after retirement
Granger retired from teaching in 1990 and football in 1991, but he also helped coach after his retirement at Carroll College, Kettle Moraine, Waukesha North, Cedarburg and Wauwatosa West high schools after his retirement.
"I think he couldn't get away from it at all; he loved it so much," Tim said. "He still loved being involved, loved being around the kids. He was a constant teacher and coach. After retiring it left a little hole in him. So he got back in the game and people were glad to have him."
He won one conference championship in baseball as the head coach at Catholic Memorial High School in 1967.
Frank and his wife, Jean, met as freshmen at UW-La Crosse, where he was the star quarterback and she was a cheerleader.
Granger began his career as head coach for football and baseball at Waterloo High School in 1957-59, moving on as head coach for football and coach for track at Mineral Point High School from 1959-61.
He then came to the area as an assistant football and head baseball at Catholic Memorial High School from 1961-1969.
He coached at New Berlin West High School for one year (1969-70) and moved to Eisenhower when the school opened.
A plentiful gathering
Brian talked about growing up as a son of a coach.
"I don't think I missed one of his football games for 10 years," said Brian, who coaches softball at Druid Hills High School in Atlanta. "My mother would grab me, give me my hat and coat and we would be out the door going to the game. I would get to ride on the bus with the team in football and then in the summer with the baseball team."
Tim said that about 50 ex-players who played for his father from 1971-88 showed up for the visitation.
"A lot of them went into teaching and coaching because of my dad," Tim said. "He was a life coach, he wasn't just all X's and O's."
Granger is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jean Carberry Granger; daughter Therese, sons Tim (Heather), Patrick and Brian; and grandchildren Conor, Tyler, Shea and Cassidy.
Both Frank and Jean were teachers as were all four of their children. Tim and Brian were also coaches. Tim was baseball coach at Brookfield East and is now the softball coach at Waukesha West while Brian is a softball coach at Druid Hills High School in Atlanta.
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