One of the most legendary coaches in high school history, long-time St. Joseph High School boys basketball coach Gene Pingatore passed away on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at the age of 83.
Pingatore is the IHSA’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach with a career record of 1035-384, which was accumulated in a 50-year coaching career at St. Joseph. He was set to coach his 51st season this winter, and was on the bench leading the Chargers in a summer league event just days before his passing.
Coach Ping, as he was affectionately known, was introduced to a worldwide audience in 1994 with the release of the documentary film Hoop Dreams
. The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, who begin their high school basketball careers at St. Joseph under Pingatore’s direction.
Pingatore led St. Joseph to two IHSA state championships during his career, winning the Class AA title in 1999 and the Class 3A crown in 2015. His Chargers also reached the Class AA state title game in 1978, finishing second to Lockport, on a team that featured future NCAA (Indiana) and NBA (Detroit) champion Isiah Thomas (pictured below in foreground with Pingatore).
Pingatore was named one of the IHSA’s 100 Legends of March Madness
during the centennial celebration of the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals in 2008. Tributes to the late coach have been prevalent on social media since the announcement of his passing.
“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Pingatore’s family, friends, and former players,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “The number of students he impacted during his career is immeasurable. He epitomized education-based athletics, using basketball as an extension of the classroom. It is hard to imagine high school basketball in Illinois without him on a sideline, and there is no doubt that he is a legend who will never be forgotten.”
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