“I think my role now is a lot more than mine,” said Chris Wilburn, a senior on the ’94 -95 team.
At the beginning of his tenure, he looked old for the players. But Sister Jean was soon a fixture of the program, someone who was always there to congratulate the team after a few wins and many defeats. She would occasionally surface in the locker room, perhaps taking a look and a forced smile when a clear song would echo through, and he would turn basketball recruits into a person to meet during his travels. His office became a refuge, players said, and a more welcoming place than sitting across from an assistant coach.
“She is not going to judge you, she is not going to hold it against you,” she said. “He doesn’t care, per se, if it’s about a basketball issue or a girlfriend issue or a lunch issue about how you didn’t get to eat that day.”
Sometimes, the players said, she would listen from behind her desk. On others, she will come closer.
“She always smiles and sits back and crosses her hands, just like you see in that wheelchair,” Estes said. “She just likes to smile and say, ‘Joe, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep doing what you want.”
These days, she can sometimes compete with Bob Newhart, who earned a business degree in 1952 at Loyola as the university’s best-known export. For his former players, however, he is even more amazing.
Wilburn’s children have shirts with the likeness of Sister Jean. Owens’ children ask if Rambel was winning because the sister was praying. Like Estis, Mollis, in 2018, told a story about Sister Jean, but for more than a decade, he had not considered what a game’s box score was called.
“I will tell that the Sister Jean stories tilt the day I die,” Mollis said. “I’ll take them for my daughter – that’s what I do right now.”