Living Out Loud: : Those Living Dolls

Giving back to the community

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Larry Gross

Bob Doll and daughter Lindsay work hard at the Proud Rooster and give back to their community in their spare time. They volunteer coach.

When you walk past the Proud Rooster, 345 Ludlow Ave., it's kind of fun to glance over at the window and watch the cook beat some eggs, turn a burger over on the grill or watch him lift some chicken out of the deep fryer. He's stationed right up against the front window.

The dining room is small, with about 10 booths and some tables in the middle. Barbara, the waitress, has been on duty since she was a young girl and knows what the regulars want to eat even before they do. Everybody knows each other's name and it's a friendly diner.

Established in the 1950s, the Proud Rooster has been owned by Bob Doll for the past 30 years. There's no truth to the rumor it's going to become yet another Indian restaurant in Clifton's Gaslight District. Doll and his daughter, Lindsay, are staying put — frying that chicken, making those sandwiches, preparing breakfast all day long and serving up home-style dinners. They live their life out loud by working hard in their restaurant and by giving back to their community in their spare time.

They're both volunteer coaches.

Bob Doll's been at it for 22 years now, coaching eighth-grade basketball at St. Dominic in Delhi.

"The thing about coaching is you meet great kids and you get positive things out of them," Doll says. "I have kids come back after they're married — 20, 29 years old and they got their own kids now and they say 'I hope you're still here to coach my kids.' "

Daughter Lindsay has followed in her father's footsteps, coaching girl's soccer at Oak Hills and girl's basketball at St. Dominic, where her father coached her while she was in the eighth grade. She laughs when asked if this was awkward.

"I really don't remember that much about it," she says.

Both are winning coaches. While Bob Doll is now semi-retired from coaching boy's basketball, last year as coach at St. Dominic, out of 69 games played, 63 were won. He sees a difference in his eighth graders from back 20 years ago.

"I think most of them think they're ready for the NBA already," he says.

This year Doll will focus his effort on girls' basketball.

"I like coaching the girls," he says. "They play more as a team. Some of the boys only worry about how many points they score. Teams in the past didn't care. They just went out there and had fun."

The Dolls like to have fun in their restaurant with their coaching, winning ways. When you enter the dining room area, you're going to see a décor that's pretty unusual. On the wood veneer paneling to the left of the dining area, you'll find hanging sketches of the famous players from the Big Red Machine days — Perez, Bench, Rose and Morgan. And throughout the Proud Rooster, you'll find trophies, plaques and pictures of the various teams the Dolls have coached over the years. It's almost like being in someone's den.

"There are some pictures I don't have up because I didn't start doing it until I started thinking that people come in here who played for me and it's fun for them and their families to see their picture on the wall," Doll says.

Respect for past and present players and their families is very apparent with both Dolls, and that respect works both ways. This past summer Lindsay was in a wedding and had to miss an important game.

"I had two games that day, and the first one was in the morning and I couldn't miss it," she says. "As soon as I could leave, I went and got my hair done, then I went to the wedding. With the second game — we were in the finals, but I couldn't make it because of the wedding. So I'm there and I'm not really paying attention and I turn around and all the girls show up. Some were in uniform, some weren't. I was almost in tears."

Frying chicken, beating eggs and flipping burgers by day and coaching eighth graders by night and on the weekends keep the Dolls pretty busy but they like what they're doing.

"The eighth grade — that's their last year before they go big time," Bob Doll says. "You got to get them ready. We want to win, but my job is to get them ready. My pay is to see these kids succeed."

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