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.

Top five under the radar teams to watch in 2020

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NBC Sports Chicago

Top five under the radar teams to watch in 2020

There are several teams that finished with losing records this past season; they will undoubtedly be flying under the radar come August.  Who are the top 5 teams who could surprise IHSA football fans next fall?

St. Charles North (4-5): It was a tough 2019 season for the North Stars both on and off the field. The school administration and head coach Ron Pomazak had to deal with the serious brain injury to sophomore RB Aidan Carlson-- an issue which impacted the entire community. St. Charles North still has talent in the program including several starters on the offensive line, namely junior OL/DL Carmine Bastone and junior OT Ian Erickson. They are on the rise along with junior ATH Jordan Nubi, the younger brother of former North Star and current Minnesota Gopher safety Tyler Nubin. 

Naperville Central (4-5): The Redhawks had a ton of hype in the preseason, then the reality of a brutal schedule set in. Naperville Central ended up losing three games to eventual state champions (Lincoln-Way East, Ohio’s Pickerington Central and East St. Louis). They lost another two games to teams with a combined record of 17-4. The 2020 Redhawks will still have one of the state's most dangerous athletes in QB Sam Jackson (Minnesota) along with a deep group of talented young receivers led by junior Keon Green and sophomore Reggie Fluerima.

Stevenson (4-5): The Patriots missed the IHSA state football playoff field for the first time since 1988. Can postseason football come back to Lincolnshire? Stevenson head coach Brent Becker will need to replace a very big senior class; however, this remains one of the top programs year in and year out in Illinois. Don't look for Stevenson to be down for very long.

Lockport (4-5): Easily one of the better stories of 2019. Former longtime Porter assistant coach George Czart was given the reins of this program in the offseason. Czart was also the head coach at Lincoln-Way North and led the Phoenix to a 54-29 record in eight seasons before the district closed the school. The Porters have numbers in the program; Czart’s staff did an outstanding job of getting everyone to buy in and the program became competitive as a result. The overall talent level is still a work in progress but the ingredients are in the building. They have the potential of becoming an eventual monster to watch in the Southwest suburbs.

Oak Park-River Forest (4-5): The Huskies, under head coach John Hoerster, wound up posting a losing record—a rarity for this Western Suburban Silver program. But outside of a 42-0 Week 9 loss to Glenbard West, OPRK was in every game last season. Several of the Huskies top players in 2019 will be back in 2020, led by QB/S Jaden McGill, LB Naahlyee Bryant and junior OL/DL Amarion Jones.

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

This week, we're going to get a taste of the Chicago Public League/White division. Which game should we attend for High School Lites?

Mather at Foreman, 5:00 p.m.

Jones at Wells, 5:00 p.m.

Perspectives-MSA at Raby, 6:30 p.m.

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.