WESTCHESTER, IL – On Saturday evening the St. Joseph Chargers legendary basketball Head Coach Gene Pingatore earned his 1,000th career victory at the helm of the west-suburban preps basketball program.
With an 81-71 victory over St. Rita in front of an anxious capacity crowd inside of the gymnasium at St. Joseph High School in west-suburban Westchester, Illinois, the coach who has produced basketball greatness to the likes of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas became the first men’s high school basketball coach to reach the 1,000 victory mark in the state of Illinois.
Pingatore joins Marshall girl’s coach Dorothy Gaters as the only other coach in Illinois history to reach the 1,000 win plateu, and became just the 15th men’s high school basketball coach in United States history to reach the mark according to the National Federation of High Schools.
After the milestone victory, Pingatore, who now stands at an impressive all-time mark of 1,000-353, giving him an unparalleled .753 winning percentage, had this to say about what the feat means to him and the St. Joseph families;
“It’s a relief because the week was like a zoo and a big distraction,” Pingatore said. “It’s not about the 1,000 wins. It’s about all the people who contributed to the 1,000 wins. All the players, all the assistant coaches and the fans that have followed us. They all made it possible. Not me.”
Coach Pingatore also assured fans that he will in fact be back next season as the Head Coach of the Chargers men’s basketball program saying, “I will be back (next year). What would I do if I retire?”
As echoed by the legendary hoops coach himself, more important than the mountain of victories is the lasting effect that Pingatore has had upon his players, both current and former. Former St. Joseph High School student-athlete and NBA legend, Isiah Thomas has this to say in the days leading up to the monumental victory;
“I learned how to be a leader on the basketball team and a winner from Mr. Pingatore,” Thomas said. “I know I get a lot of attention for being one of the best players to play there, but I can say playing for Mr. Pingatore that every player he coached, he gave each and every player, regardless of what year, his all as a person and coach.
“All the years that he’s been coaching, it doesn’t matter — one through 15, if you are a starter or bench player — he gives everyone their all. The fact that he’s one win away from 1,000 is remarkable.”
Thomas stressed that coach Pingatore’s best asset over his 48 year tenure as the Head Coach of the Chargers has been his ability to care for his players, and groom them to be leaders and men in their future endeavors. Current Charger Marquise Walker mired Thomas’s assessment on Saturday evening after the win;
“Coach has done so much for me, and I appreciate everything,” Walker said. “He’s a legendary coach. He’s the best and no high school coach is better. I’m praying that he stays here because we need him.”
Coach Pingatore is something of a celebrity around the Westchester community, having his own parking space in the front of the school, while Mayfair Ave., the street to the east of the school bears his name in honor of his nearly five decades of service to the school, and the communities that it serves.
The most important take-away for Pingatore over his 48 years with the school, has not been the basketball related accolades, but rather the impact that he has been able to make in the lives of hundreds of young men in the western-suburbs, saying simply, “It’s about the relationships that were developed. If you don’t have that, and it’s about wins and losses, you don’t have nothing.”