Most Chicagoans know of Gene Pingatore, the long-time Head Basketball Coach at St. Joseph High School in Westchester Illinois. The 1000+ game winner was inducted into the Sports Faith International Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 3, 2017. Patrick McCaskey, a Chicago Bears Vice President and Sporting Chance Press author, is Chairman of Sports Faith International and an author at Sporting Chance Press. Honoring Gene Pingatore was common sense–his St. Joe’s program is the standard-bearer of excellence in High School basketball. Sports Faith International calls attention to the accomplishments of exemplary athletes, coaches, and teams.
A couple years ago at the SFI International Awards ceremony, I remember turning to one of the coaches from out of state who was at my table while Coach Pingatore was up at the podium and just saying: “He’s the real deal.” Pingatore of St. Joe’s, like Father John Smyth of Maryville, who died a few months ago, was a man of faith and courage. What Pingatore has managed to accomplish at St. Joe’s, at the school and for his athletes, is exceptional. It is his life’s work.
Gene Pingatore attended St. Mel High School on Chicago’s west side and then went on to play basketball at Loyola University of Los Angeles. After graduation, he returned to Chicago to do graduate work at Loyola University and DePaul University. In 1960, he began a coaching and teaching career at the newly-built St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois. He has served in many capacities at the school.
According to St. Joe’s web site in 2017, his list of accomplishments: Gene Pingatore captured 27 East Suburban Catholic Conference Championships, 2 Catholic League North titles, 9 prestigious Proviso West Holiday Tournament Championships, 34 state regional titles and 13 state sectional titles. In 1978, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1999, his teams qualified for the Elite Eight Tournament. In 2015 his team qualified for the Final Four in Peoria and won the 3A State title. The 1978 team was the state runner-up; the 1984 team placed 4th; the 1987 team took 3rd place; and the 1999 team captured the Class AA State Championship. In 2016 St. Joseph returned to the 3A Final Four and placed 4th in State.
Gene Pingatore coached more than a dozen fine players who went on to the pros here and in other countries. Perhaps his most well-known former basketball player is Isiah Thomas. Pingatore’s basketball alums also include two NFL players as well: Andy Fredrich and Cameron Meredith.
Gene Pingatore has received dozens of coaching honors and many awards honoring his character and leadership. He has worked on many boards and organizations that serve the community and youth.
Pingatore was able to accomplish much during his tenure and he ran a first class program. Let’s pray for the success of those who take over St. Joe’s program and all those who are working to fill the shoes of great men and women who make a difference in the lives of young people.