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Legendary St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore dies

Gene Pingatore, 83, was the state’s all-time leader in wins and a star in the award-winning documentary “Hoop Dreams.”

St. Joseph’s coach Gene Pingatore after winning his 1,000th game.
St. Joseph’s coach Gene Pingatore after winning his 1,000th game.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

Legendary St. Joseph basketball coach Gene Pingatore, 83, died on Wednesday according to several sources.

Pingatore is the winningest coach in state history, with a record of 1035-383 in 50 years. He coached NBA stars Isiah Thomas and Evan Turner and had a starring role in the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams.” Pingatore coached three McDonald’s All-Americans: Thomas, Daryl Thomas and Daryl Cunningham.

Pingatore was coaching this past weekend at the Riverside-Brookfield shootout and was planning to start his 51st season at the helm of the Chargers’ basketball program.

St. Joseph had a massive celebration when Pingatore won his 1,000th game in 2017. The school made bobblehead dolls of the beloved coach.

“It’s about the relationships that were developed,” Pingatore said after picking up his landmark victory. “If you don’t have that and its just about wins and losses then you have nothing. It would be a very shallow victory. The fact that they all come back, hopefully I did something right.”

The Chargers were one of the state’s best teams under Pingatore. They won two state championships (2015, 1999), advanced to the state finals six times and won 13 sectionals.

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Pingatore’s family, friends, and former players,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “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.”

Tributes to Pingatore are starting to pour in on Twitter....

Gene Pingatore’s career

1969-70: 3-13
1970-71: 9-16
1971-72: 15-10
1972-73: 10-13
1973-74: 16-8
1974-75: 16-7
1975-76: 7-18
1976-77: 16-10
1977-78: 31-2 (2nd)
1978-79: 26-3
1979-80: 19-6
1980-81: 24-4
1981-82: 29-2
1982-83: 26-5
1983-84: 25-8 (4th)
1984-85: 20-7
1985-86: 30-1
1986-87: 28-3 (3rd)
1987-88: 26-4
1988-89: 23-5
1989-90: 25-4
1990-91: 23-4
1991-92: 26-2
1992-93: 20-8
1993-94: 20-8
1994-95: 22-8
1995-96: 19-7
1996-97: 21-7
1997-98: 20-7
1998-99: 32-1 (1st)
1999-00: 22-8
2000-01: 5-20
2001-02: 18-9
2002-03: 20-8
2003-04: 23-6
2004-05: 28-2
2005-06: 28-2
2006-07: 25-5
2007-08: 21-7
2008-09: 26-4
2009-10: 22-7
2010-11: 10-17
2011-12: 20-9
2012-13: 18-13
2013-14: 23-7
2014-15: 29-6 (1st)
2015-16: 25-9 (4th)
2016-17: 16-12
2017-18: 18-10
2018-19: 14-19

Total (50 years): 1035-383