Preps Talk

Legendary St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore wins No. 1,000

Legendary St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore wins No. 1,000

Gene Pingatore had a hard time finding the words after making history on Saturday night.

Moments after Pingatore captured the 1,000th win of his illustrious career at St. Joseph, he was surrounded by cameras and people who have been apart of the St. Joseph boys basketball program during his 48 years of coaching.

"This is all about the people that helped get me here," Pingatore repeatedly said on Saturday night.

In front of a near sold-out crowd that was filled with many of the former players and managers that helped him become the first coach in Illinois high school boys basketball history to reach 1,000 wins, Pinagtore and St. Joseph knocked off St. Rita, 81-71, on Saturday night to advance in the Catholic League Tournament.

The win helps the Chargers (13-10) gain some momentum heading towards the state playoffs, but this night was mostly about Pingatore and his long-lasting legacy.

The 80-year-old Pingatore has been coaching at St. Joseph since 1969, leading the program to two state championships (1999 and 2015) and producing countless successful players across multiple decades.

Pingatore's most famous alum is undoubtedly Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas and Pingatore has also coached talented players like Amal McCaskill, Daryl Thomas, William Gates, Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey.

One of the remarkable things about Pingatore, and his overall legacy, is his ability to connect and coach talented players over multiple generations. 

In just the last two years, Pingatore has coached players that went on to play at the high college level as Jordan Ash (Northwestern), Glynn Watson (Nebraska) and Nick Rakocevic (USC) all helped the Chargers capture that 2015 state championship in Class 3A.

Using a freshman point guard in Marquise Walker, the Chargers shockingly made it back down to Peoria last season despite Rakocevic being the team's only senior.  

The trip to Peoria was one of nine times that St. Joseph has played in the state finals during Pingatore's tenure. The Chargers also have 13 sectional titles and 32 20-win seasons during Pingatore's tenure. 

During one particularly strong stretch during the 1980s, St. Joseph won six sectional titles over a seven-year period from 1982 through 1988 -- although they never claimed a state title.

Basketball fans from all over the world might also be familiar with Pingatore as the high school coach at St. Joseph during the famous 1994 basketball documentary "Hoop Dreams." 

Considered one of the best sports documentaries of all time, the film followed the lives of two rising freshmen trying to make their way at St. Joseph. As the head coach who helped produce Thomas as the film's hook, Pingatore received a lot of screen time in the critically-acclaimed film.

Pingatore has a healthy lead on the Illinois all-time wins list among boys basketball coaches and he's the only coach to even reach 900 wins in the state. It will be years before we see anyone even come close to challenging Pingatore's impressive win total and he doesn't seem to be slowing down.

In the frenzy and celebration after the St. Joseph win on Saturday night, Pingatore spent a lot of timing talking photos with groups of former players and coaches. 

Amidst the sea of people, players and cameras, Pingatore sheepishly took selfies with younger players and remembered the names of hundreds of well-wishers who wanted to be apart of his historic night. 

Groups of players from years' past would call for Pingatore's attention for group photos every few seconds. It was a small glimpse of the impact he's made in nearly 50 years of coaching at St. Joseph.

High School Lites Week 2 basketball roundup


High School Lites Week 2 basketball roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great basketball action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CSNPreps for all of the latest IHSA basketball scores and highlights.

Windy City Legends: Kendrick Nunn

Team of the Week: Catalyst Maria Soccer

Athlete of the Week: Halle Douglass

Friday's scores:

Stevenson 57, Zion-Benton 44

No. 8 Evanston 50, New Trier 40

Homewood-Flossmoor 63, Lincoln-Way Central 31

No. 14 Thornton 58, Rich Central 34

No. 4 Whitney Young 56, No. 11 Lincoln Park 50

Loyola 34, Notre Dame 31

Homewood-Flossmoor 63, Lincoln-Way Central 31

Francis W. Parker 55, Latin 47

GIRLS: Evanston 59, New Trier 33


Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

Mather 61, Foreman 57

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos wins SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition award

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos wins SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition award

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos said he’d never been surprised, until the day the school, his players and even family from Chile let him know he won the SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition Award.

“It means a lot to me because of the recognition we have for the kids,” Burgos said. “As I try to think all in, and think about this, I think my initial inclination is to think about them, about the fact that what we’re doing is seen, that their hard work will pay off and those values that I’m trying to instill in them are reaching them. And I’m very humbled about the whole experience.

"I’ve never been thanked publicly and it’s new, but it’s obviously something positive for the community, which the work I do is centered around.”

The school held a ceremony to honor Burgos, whose nomination bested more than 300 others to win. His team at Catalyst Maria won $2,500. Burgos’ friend and former colleague, Joel Farran, nominated him for his countless works in the community. Just some of the acts Burgos was noted for in the nomination include helping facilitate college scholarships for students, building relationships for students who were struggling to find proper housing, reaching out to students on the middle school levels, inviting parents to come together through events like potluck picnics and organizing a tournament for sixth through eighth-grade students as a way to provide a safe and fun environment for local children.

“He puts people first, and he puts people before himself, and he’s all about elevating others,” Farran said. “Whether it’s on the field or off the field, soccer is just one of the ways he does that. But it is the way he knows best. And it’s about creating opportunities — not only on the field — but when you fail on the field, learning to adjust from that and create solutions, but off the field, creating opportunities for scholar-athletes to continue to excel.”

Burgos’ students agree.

“He’s more than just a coach,” soccer player Alondra Gonzalez said. "He’s like another father-figure to me. When it comes to coaching, he does more than beyond. He created a webpage so everyone could see us. He created a ‘Go Fund Me’ [page] so we could have money for our uniforms, like jackets, because we play in the cold, and he wants us to do a lot more than just play and practice almost every day to be better.”

Another student-athlete, Angel Santillan, said Burgos is an “amazing person.”

“He means everything to me,” Santillan said. "Like the sport, it’s just a passion that he does everything for us. It’s a great experience to be coached by Mr. B. He’s just an amazing coach and he does everything for us.”

Three-time Olympian Kara Winger presented Burgos with the award, as a representative of TrueSport.

“Coach Burgos is clearly taking the time and effort to make a difference in these kids’ lives,” Winger said. “I was very blessed to have amazing coaches growing up who taught me how to be not only the best athlete I could be, but to be the best person I could be, and it’s clearly his mission here at Catalyst Maria schools, so TrueSport is so excited to honor him with the Champion Coach Award.”

Burgos, who was visibly moved by the surprise celebration, said he appreciated his work being recognized.

“I know there’s a lot of joy when you give, when you simply give without thinking about what’s going to happen next,” he said. “I do it because it’s the way that I continue to grow; it keeps me alive. I think we humans are here on Earth to take care of each other, to respect each other, to love each other, to cheer each other up. And those are values that I defend, and I have defended always.

"And now that I’m here, and I see that they are recognized, it validates what I knew. It will ultimately — if you are kind to people, if you’re loving, this is what happens. And it’s wonderful to see it for myself.”