No Matter Where ‘Super Sub’ Goes, His Loyalty and Passion Follow
When young John Laskowski was seven years of age, his father took him to an Iowa vs Indiana basketball game. When Laskowski got up and cheered for the Iowa Hawkeyes, his father told him, “Son, you’re from Indiana…no matter where you live, you’ll always be a Hoosier.”
Although Laskowski’s father passed away about a year afterward, this lesson stuck with John. Whether he was playing ball at Indiana, for the Chicago Bulls, or operating his Culver’s franchise, he always stayed humble and loyal to his home.
While playing basketball with the Hoosiers, Laskowski never saw himself as too big for his shoes. The South Bend native would spend all three years of his playing career at IU coming off the bench as the Hoosiers’ “sixth man.” A February 1975 Sports Illustrated issue was released, featuring Laskowski in the IU crimson scoring a layup in an away game against the Wisconsin Badgers with the caption, “super sub.” He knew it was not because he was the best player on the #1 team in the nation; it was because he was the most unique. No other team had a player who came off the bench and contributed as well as he did. Even after becoming the first Indiana basketball player to be featured on Sports Illustrated, something athletes dream of, he was willing to continue working hard in practice to improve the team.
“Coach Knight didn’t like the article, ” says Laskowski. “He stops practice and said, ‘you get your picture on the cover of that damn magazine and don’t think you have to work anymore, now get out there and start working!’, true Knight fashion.”
Laskowski proved his loyalty to his teammates and the team’s success once again in his senior year. Coach Knight related to Laskowski, as Knight came off the bench at Ohio State during his playing career in the early 1960s. Being a player who always wanted to start, Knight offered Laskowski a starting role, which Laskowski declined. He knew that at Indiana, it was about the team, not himself or his image.
Although taking Coach Knight’s offer would have given him more opportunities to score points and make a bigger name for himself for the upcoming NBA Draft, he knew that keeping the team the way it was would ultimately leave them better off. His loyalty to his teammates is likely what allows him to still have good relationships with them so many years afterward.
When Laskowski was working in downtown Indianapolis during the NBA draft, he found out about the Chicago Bulls selecting him from the newspaper. Even after receiving a $10,000 signing bonus and buying a brand-new car, he was in it for the team. He was prepared to learn from his future Hall of Fame teammates. Laskowski believes that in college, players play for the team and in the pros, players play for themselves and their money. Laskowski always cared much more about the team and his home; after two seasons of making good wages in the NBA, he returned to IU Basketball, this time as the color commentator, as opposed to looking for a new NBA contract or playing in Europe.
“I would say take a $50,000 job that’s in the town you like, or the team you like, or whatever it is, … but for $100,000 [at a job you don’t like], it’s terrible,” says Laskowski.
Laskowski now owns a Culver’s franchise in Bloomington, which he co-manages with his son, Scott. Filled with Hoosiers posters and pictures, the restaurant’s owner is a huge selling point, one of the reasons it’s broken nearly every Indiana Culver’s record one could think of. The reason for operating a Culver’s is the same reason why he refused the starting spot at IU and why he didn’t let money distract him while in the NBA: because John Laskowski really cares. He cares about his teammates and his community. John really cares about Culver’s and the availability of high-quality food at a low price.
“You can’t go to Chili’s and Applebees and O’Charley’s all the time because its fifteen bucks. But we’re about seven, eight, or nine dollars depending on what you get,” said Laskowski.
Although Laskowski could have simply retired or worked a different profession, he owns a Culver’s because of how much he loves the restaurants and because of the partnership with his son. Scott Laskowski used to work in the criminal justice field, as a night jail officer at the Monroe County Jail. After constant verbal abuse from prisoners, he informed his dad of his unhappiness at his profession. That was what got the ball rolling for the Bloomington Culver’s.
“I said, ‘so I can start a restaurant but I can’t run it, I’m too old,’ I said, ‘can you do that?’” said John.
That was the beginning of their business partnership. Scott behind the counter running the restaurant’s operations and John as the face of the restaurant and helping with customer hospitality. John very much enjoys being in the business with his son and making memories with him, which is something he got very few of after the unfortunate early passing of his own father.
“I get to do this, I get to be with him every day, so it is a lot of fun,” said John.
No matter what Laskowski does, his love of teamwork and others is always present, which is one of the reasons despite being such a successful basketball player and restaurant owner, he continues to be one of the humblest people one could ever meet.