" 'Really?' the produce man says. 'What team is she on?' "
Ciccarone claims this kind of palaver has helped the Jays attain the 101-15 record he has amassed in his nine years.
Born in Annapolis, Md., Ciccarone was in a sense Navy born and bred. His father, an immigrant tailor, made uniforms for officers at the Naval Academy. Young Ciccarone joined the Marines as an enlisted man in 1956 and two years later was accepted at the Academy, a perennial lacrosse power. But he didn't like the "life-style" there. He quit after a semester and transferred to Hopkins. There, he was third-team All-America as a sophomore, second-team as a junior, and first-team as a senior. As a student, he was somewhere outside the Merriwell mold. He spent a fair amount of time winging water-filled balloons with his lacrosse stick at Hopkins deans and the girls from nearby Goucher College.
In the middle of his junior year he took off with his fraternity's grocery money and Sue Gordon, his girl friend from Boston University. They eloped to Las Vegas in her Impala convertible. When the grocery money ran out, they came back. The marriage has lasted 22 years and has produced three lacrosse players (Henry, 21; Brent, 20; and John, 17, still in high school) and one baseball player (Steve, 15). Like their father, all four kids are called Chic. Family reunions are like Old Macdonald's Farm: Here a Chic, there a Chic, everywhere a Chic Chic.
Henry, a senior, was a second-team All-America last season, when he led the Jays' midfielders in scoring, and is a probable first-team choice this year. He turned down a scholarship to North Carolina, which has beaten Hopkins in the NCAA finals the last two years, because, he says, he had friends on the Hopkins team. "I think he didn't want to play against his father," says his mother.
Coaching his offspring—Brent is the Jays' starting crease attackman—hasn't been easy for Ciccarone. "I try to treat my players like sons," he says. Which puts him in the awkward position of having to treat his sons like players. And Henry had to learn to treat his dad like a coach. "This year," he says, "I finally have the guts to say stuff back to him."
Chic the coach has devoted most of his adult life to Hopkins lacrosse. After graduation, he was an assistant to the exalted Bob Scott for eight years. Scott wrote the book on lacrosse. (It's for sale: Lacrosse: Technique and Tradition, Johns Hopkins University Press, $7.95.) A former Army Ranger, he was a straight-arrow taskmaster whose teams won seven national titles in 20 campaigns. Ciccarone took over the year after No. 7 and installed a more mobile system that stressed the passing game. "Free-lancing" he called it. When he didn't turn out a championship team in his first three seasons, some alumni were ready for a new tradition—firing the coach.
Chic responded with some patented Ciccarone chicanery. At the annual preseason "smoker" for Hopkins alumni lacrosse men in 1978, he had 10 members of the varsity dress in gangster suits with white carnations in their lapels. He called them Salvatore, Vito, Giuseppe, etc. and told the disgruntled alumni, "This is my hit squad. If you're displeased with our offense, talk to them." His mafia won the title that year, and the next two also.
Then again, lie hasn't been wholly responsible for those three titles. Chicken livers were. Ciccarone doesn't take many chances. He has his rituals. He ate chicken livers after every Thursday practice during those championship seasons. When he didn't win a fourth, he stopped. "For five years he wore the same pair of black pants to every game," says his wife. "Washed."
This year his rituals have become even more elaborate. On Tuesday afternoons he drives to downtown Baltimore to the Lexington Market, a food bazaar, and he's not after half a head of lettuce. First, he buys a state lottery ticket, the digits on which correspond, in an obscure way, to the Jays' number of wins for the season. Then he gets soup (navy bean or chicken rice) from the J.N.R lunch counter, a sandwich (usually raw beef) from Jerns' meats and a soda (Tab) at Polock Johnny's. It seems to work. The Jays have been grinding out wins the way Polock Johnny grinds out Polish sausage. Until two weeks ago, when they lost in double overtime 14-13 to North Carolina in a midseason game. The Tar Heels seem un-fazed by Chic's ritual. Maybe their coach, Willie Scroggs, is immune to Ciccarone's spell. Scroggs is a former Hopkins midfielder and assistant.