There is an old saying that the family that plays together, stays together.
For the Doucleff family, there has always been a love of sports and playing together, first in childhood for brothers Karl, 71, and Mike, 68, and now with their lovely grandchildren.
Through the grade school basketball season this winter, both Mike and Karl coached their granddaughters. Mike coached his granddaughter Catherine Hollis on the fifth-grade Evangelical Elementary School girls’ squad. Karl coached his granddaughters Cameryn and Bethany Tosh, 11-year-old twins, for the Evangelical sixth grade.
The Doucleff family is known for its basketball exploits and as the owners of Duke Bakery with locations on Henry Street in Alton and Granite City. For years, Duke Bakery has been a household name around the Greater Alton area with its doughnuts, cakes, pies and bread.
Mike Doucleff coached and taught in Texas for three years and took his girls’ basketball team to a state tournament in the 1960s, so he has a long history affiliated with coaching. When he returned to the area, he coached Little League baseball.
Mike described coaching his granddaughter’s team this year as “awesome.”
“It is something you never think about doing, and when you do you are thrilled,” he said.
Karl Doucleff has loved basketball since he was a young child in Alton. He started coaching Little League with his children. When St. Mary’s needed a boys’ basketball coach, he said John Schwegel asked him to coach if they couldn’t find someone else to do it.
“I don’t think he looked for anyone else to coach,” Karl Doucleff said. “That was back 35 years ago. I coached St. Mary’s for three years and the Middle School in Alton when they didn’t have a sports program in basketball and baseball through the parks department. I also coached the Junior and Senior Legion baseball teams.”
Karl coached NFL punter Craig Hentrich in Senior Legion baseball. He also coached shortstop Tony Stoecklin, who pitched in the minor leagues and is now a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville baseball coach.
“These guys were competitive,” he said.
Girls are just as competitive as boys, Karl said, after coaching his granddaughters’ team this past year.
“I always felt when a parent or grandparent, uncle or a relative coaches a basketball team, you want to be fair with everybody,” he said. “I think maybe you try a little harder on your own children or grandchildren than the rest of the girls, so there is no inkling of favoritism.”
Karl picks up his granddaughters and takes them to practice. He said basketball is just something he has loved all his life.
Karl Doucleff was a star at Western Military Academy in Alton from 1957 to 1960. The 6-foot-5 Doucleff was the Alton Exchange Club Player of the Year in 1960 at Western Military Academy.
Last summer, the Urban League had a basketball fund-raiser at Lewis and Clark Community College and Barry Macias persuaded Karl to play. Karl said his shoulder hurt for a few days after playing, but he says he is still good from 17 feet out despite being 71 years old.
When Mike and Karl were kids, boys would show up with a bat and glove and play baseball all day with 15 to 20 other children. Once, Karl and Mike used shovels to excavate a makeshift dugout. While doing that a bee flew up his pant leg and stung him, Mike said, laughing.
Karl said losing is just as important as winning because you have to learn to accept it.
Mike agreed with his brother and said, “It is not only about the X’s and O’s or how to make a proper pass, but sportsmanship.”
Karl and Mike know basketball is an important part of their lives, but both said it was great to see their granddaughters carrying on the family tradition.
“I hope the girls learned from all of this,” Karl Doucleff said.