Legendary coach Pingatore, Illinois' winningest boys basketball coach, dies at 82

  • St. Joseph High School boys basketball coach Gene Pingatore captures his 1,000th win against St. Rita Feb. 11, 2017.

    St. Joseph High School boys basketball coach Gene Pingatore captures his 1,000th win against St. Rita Feb. 11, 2017. COURTESY OF Worsom Robinson

  • St. Joseph boys basketball coach Gene Pingatore brought his team to St. Viator in Arlington Heights in 2006. He died at his Westchester home Wednesday.

      St. Joseph boys basketball coach Gene Pingatore brought his team to St. Viator in Arlington Heights in 2006. He died at his Westchester home Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Michael O’Brien
Chicago Sun-Times

Legendary St. Joseph High School boys basketball coach Gene Pingatore, 82, died Wednesday at his home, the Westchester school announced on its website.

Pingatore is the winningest coach in state history, with a record of 1,035 wins and 383 losses 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 it's 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 state championships in 1999 and 2015, advanced to the state finals six times and won 13 sectional titles.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Pingatore's family, friends, and former players," Illinois High School Association 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."

According to the school, Pingatore is survived by his fiancee, Jill Oakley; daughter Lisa Pingatore Crispo; and other family members.

Arrangements are pending.

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