BY BLAKE HEMPSTEAD
Anaconda has a heavy heart today after learning Tony Laslovich, a community icon, family man, mentor and friend, lost his courageous battle with cancer on Sunday. He was 57 years old.
Laslovich garnered most of his attention during his 33 years of service in the Montana Officials Association as a volleyball, basketball and football referee in the Anaconda pool. Earlier this year, he was voted into the MOA Hall Of Fame.
“I think the first word that comes to my mind when talking about Tony is friend,” said Montana High School Association Director Mark Beckman, who knew Laslovich from his coaching years in Butte and Anaconda in the early 90s and later from governing the MOA. “Tony never let you get out of line. He was one that helped me realize it’s better to coach the kids, not officiate the game from the sidelines. He was one of the best.”
Laslovich’s career, has been littered with championship games – in district, divisional and state tournaments – in all three sports he officiated. But his last, the 2012 girls’ Class A State Tournament played in the Butte Civic Center, was where he blew his last whistle.
Although these numbers aren’t 100 percent accurate due to the longevity of Tony’s career with the MOA, he has officiated no less than 14 playoff football games, 19 district, 19 divisional and 15 state boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments and 12 district, 10 divisional and 17 state volleyball tournaments.
All told, Laslovich has officiated championship games in Class AA, A, B and C volleyball and boys’ and girls’ basketball in all Montana classifications as well. At one point, the only reason Tony missed a post season tournament is because he turned it down to hand it off to another official in his own pool or to follow his children in their own tournament.
In short, if there was a state tournament being played where one of his children weren’t participating in it, there was a good chance Laslovich was chosen to officiate it.
“He was an outstanding official,” Beckman said. “Not a lot of people know he was extremely successful in three different sports. To be chosen to officiate state tournament in the MOA, is the pinnacle of the official’s career. He did it regularly in three sports. It’s quite amazing.”
When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer in May of 2013, Anaconda as a community joined his fight known simply as Team Laz. “Whatever It Takes” took on a life of its own and Laslovich made constant strides to fight off the disease.
Copperhead teams ( girls basketball) continued to show their support for Laslovich by wearing shirts to honor his fight throughout the year (more photos below). Then, at the 2014 Southwestern A boys’ and girls’ divisional basketball tournament held at the Maroon Activities Center in Butte, the officials pool for both tournaments donned the Team Laz logo in support of their brother.
Early last week, Laslovich’s fight entered the final chapter after a surgical procedure to relieve a bowel blockage revealed cancer had spread significantly and inoperably into his stomach.
Laslovich and his wife, Kathy, raised five children; sons Jesse, Jeff and Anthony and daughters Beth (Yurek) and Lisa; and has five grandchildren.