While Proviso West basketball has instant name recognition as host to one of the premier events in the state –– the Proviso West Holiday Tournament each December –– it’s difficult when the tournament you run is more recognized and well known than your team and program.
Michael Ingram, who was named the new head coach at Proviso West late Wednesday evening, has visions of the program catching up to the highly-acclaimed tournament that’s become synonymous with Illinois prep basketball.
“I would love for the team and the program to be the meat and potatoes and for the tournament to be a side dish some day,” says Ingram. “There was a time when Proviso West was more than a tournament name. There was some real life to Proviso West basketball at one time.”
Ingram, a former Proviso West star 30 years ago who anchored the best team in school history in 1985, has spent the past three years as the freshman coach.
“I’ve coveted this position for a long time and actually applied for this job 15 years ago,” says Ingram, who is president and CEO of Hinsdale United Limousine in the western suburbs. “I felt like I had to get back.”
Ingram’s first priority in changing the program, however, has nothing to do with basketball. He has seen a calamity of academic issues that have hit the program, which he believes must first be addressed, corrected and, in return, will ultimately lead to basketball success.
“My opinion and my belief, and I tell everyone this, is getting these kids into college,” says Ingram. “That has to be our first objective as a staff, our immediate focus and ultimate goal.
“If you go that route, if you put yourself in that position of being able to go to college, then you’re a winner. That helps establish a winning mentality. That changes your work ethic. The winning on the court will follow.”
Ingram’s plans are big, though he says he’s not “delusional” and knows “it’s going to take time.” But, again, the immediate focus are on areas outside the gym and away from basketball. He believes a part of the building process is in the way the players in the program act, speak and dress, the way they approach school, academics and respect others.
“Discipline and respect –– you have to have those two things to have any type of success,” he says.
He’s also seen a mass exodus of talent leaving the Hillside school over the years, whether it’s moving a few blocks so they can attend Proviso East or heading off to one of the local private schools. Ingram knows that must change.
“There is enough talent but a lot of that talent is leaving,” Ingram points out. “We have to work on getting these kids to stay, to want to be a part of Proviso West. We can’t give them any reasons to leave.”
Ingram is quite aware of past Proviso West basketball success. He’s living proof, front and center for his players to see, of the high level Proviso West basketball once was.
Under former coaches Lowell Lucas, an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, and Mark Schneider, Proviso West enjoyed 30 years of stable, quality basketball. No, the Panthers could never match the success of neighboring powers like St. Joseph and rival Proviso East, but the program was a consistent winner.
In 23 years, Lucas won over 70 percent of his games, going 432-177 from 1971 to 1993. He won 20-plus games 12 different times and captured eight regional championships when regional plaques were a little more difficult to come by in the western suburbs.
Schneider then averaged 17 wins a year over a nine-year stretch. He guided Proviso West to five regional championships and a 26-win sectional title team in 1996, the lone sectional championship in school history.
Since then Proviso West has battled inconsistency and, more alarming, has been an afterthought in recent years. Last season the Panthers finished 8-17 overall and a dismal 2-10 in the West Suburban Silver. In the past five years Proviso West has gone just 28-32 in league play and 65-71 overall.
It was Ingram who was part of the heyday of Proviso West basketball. During Ingram’s senior year in 1985 the Panthers were unbeaten, ranked No. 9 nationally and entered state tournament play as the state’s No. 1 ranked team. Ingram and the Panthers, however, were stunned, 64-62 in overtime, by East Leyden in the sectional championship game to finish 28-1.
Ingram was an all-stater and the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in 1985, sandwiched in between 1986 winner Nick Anderson of Simeon and 1984 winner Hersey Hawkins of Westinghouse. Now he’s the head coach.
“I want to bring change and excitement back to the school,” says Ingram.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport