Phil Segroves and Bob Alberts

Mt. Carmel basketball Coach Phil Segroves (left) and Br. Rice Principal Bob Alberts have been best friends since childhood, growing up in the parish of St. Denis Roman Catholic Church. Both are passionate about the schools where they work, and they decided to have a friendly wager on the Br. Rice-Mt. Carmel playoff football game on Nov. 13. The winner of the bet would get his tab paid by the loser that night when the two joined their families for a post-game pizza party.

Much was at stake when the Br. Rice and Mt. Carmel high school football teams played in the Illinois High School Association Class 7A state quarterfinals on Nov. 13.

The winner would keep its championship hopes alive—and have bragging rights forever.

For Br. Rice Principal Bob Alberts and Mt. Carmel Basketball Coach Phil Segroves, however, a little more was on the line—the dinner tab for that night.

Alberts, of Evergreen Park, and Segroves, of Beverly, have been best friends since childhood.

Before the game, the men agreed that whoever’s team lost, that person would pay for dinner at Angie’s Sports Bar and Pizzeria, located at 83rd Street and Pulaski Road, not far from where Alberts and Segroves grew up.

Br. Rice prevailed 41-28, but the outcome won’t hurt the close friendship the men share.

“We said a long time ago that we’ll leave our game action on the field,” Alberts said. “And afterward, we’re brothers; we’re hanging out together. I’m going to your family parties; you’re going to come to mine. We’re going to leave work there; and we’re going to come here, and we’re going to come together.”

Alberts graduated from Br. Rice in 1985, and he has worked at his alma mater since the early 1990s, becoming principal in 2018. He has also coached various Crusader athletic teams.

Segroves, meanwhile, attended Bogan High School, but he has worked at Mt. Carmel for over 25 years. A longtime coach in various roles, he became the Caravan’s head varsity basketball coach in 2016.

The two have coached against each other, but on Nov. 13, they were on opposite sidelines as spectators.

However, no matter how intense any game gets, the friends let bygones be bygones after the final buzzer.

“It’s unbelievable. Because sometimes, it’s hard to turn it on and turn it off, but with Bob, it never is,” Segroves said. “We really call each other brothers. We’re that close to one another, and never once have we had a disagreement about a Br. Rice-Mt. Carmel game or a call. We’ve always congratulated each other. And, I can honestly say it’s never been a problem.”

The two became friends in 1971, growing up across the street from each other in the parish of St. Denis Roman Catholic Church, 8300 S. St. Louis Ave.

Alberts was two years older than Segroves, and the two enjoyed just about any social activity together—whether it was snowball fights or football games.

The two faced each other in baseball in high school, with Segroves, a sophomore pitcher for Bogan, getting the best of Alberts, then a senior at Br. Rice.

Alberts remembers that matchup vividly.

“He got me on a pop-up,” Alberts said. “I got to give him credit. He got me on the pop-up. It was a 2-0 pitch, and [legendary Br. Rice Coach George Sedlacek] fired on me for swinging at a 2-0 pitch because I was leading off. I said, ‘I just missed it.’”

As adults, the two stood up in each other’s weddings.

No matter the age of the friends, the sports memories have piled up.

“We battled against each other since we were little boys to high school,” Segroves said. “As we got older, college age and beyond, we played softball and basketball together in different leagues, whether it be on Western Avenue or basketball in Blue Island. We just are watching our families grow now. We’re real, real close.”

From time to time, Alberts might hear co-workers take a jab at Segroves because of his role at the rival all-boys school.

But, Alberts tells them they would love working alongside Segroves.

“He’s a hard worker. He’s passionate,” Alberts said. “He cares about his school. He fights for his school. I love that.”

Alberts has the same passion and love for Br. Rice, and he showed that the week leading up to the showdown with Mt. Carmel.

The two teams had only faced each other once in the state playoffs—in 2012, a Caravan win at Gately Stadium—and Br. Rice officials wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly in hosting this matchup.

Administrators from both schools issued a letter to their school communities two days before the game stressing the importance of good sportsmanship and not hosting tailgating parties.

Thousands of fans filled the stands, with hundreds more lined up around the field.

Br. Rice pulled away late in the fourth quarter, six weeks after winning in the final seconds of the rivals’ regular-season matchup at Mt. Carmel.

Br. Rice also won last school year, when the season was postponed until spring because of the pandemic.

“I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all week, and it had nothing to do with the football game,” Alberts said, “just the crowd control and making sure the kids behave. The rivalry’s so intense. Third time in nine months we’re playing them. We’re all just amped up, and then you throw in that it’s the quarterfinals of the state tournament, it’s just even more exciting.”

Alberts’ mother drove up from St. Louis for the game and dinner afterwards, and he would have had a little more to worry about if Mt. Carmel had won—he quipped that Segroves was planning to bring all five of his boys to dinner to add to the bill.

Instead, Segroves had to pay. But, he will be pulling for Br. Rice in the state semifinals on Nov. 20.

“The rivalry’s strong, but what I will say is that, when everything’s all over, we’re two great Catholic South Side institutions,” Segroves said. “We’re going to shake hands and wish each other the best of luck.

“If we can’t win, we want to see them win.”