He epitomized education-based athletics, using basketball as an extension of the classroom.
His father was a developer, his mother a homemaker.Gene played for the St. Mel High School basketball team, which won the Chicago Catholic League and city championships in 1954. Legendary high school basketball coach Gene Pingatore—the winningest boys basketball coach in Illinois history—died on Wednesday night at the age of 83. “The number of students he impacted during his career is immeasurable. Pingatore is the winningest coach in state history, with a record of 1035-383 in 50 years. Gene Pingatore, the winningest boys' basketball coach in Illinois history who gained national attention when he appeared in the 1994 documentary "Hoop Dreams," has died.
His prized player with the Chargers was the guard Isiah Thomas, whose success at Indiana University preceded a Hall of Fame professional career with the Detroit Pistons.“I always told you, you saved my life,” Thomas said on Twitter after Pingatore’s death.Pingatore’s participation in “Hoop Dreams” brought him national renown. Pingatore coached at St. Josephs in Chicago for 50. During that time … In 50 seasons as head coach at St. Joseph, he compiled a record of 1,035–383 and led his teams to two Illinois High School Boys Basketball Championships, in 1999 and 2015. He attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on a basketball scholarship.After graduation, he returned to Chicago, where he was hired by the newly opened St. Joseph as its freshman basketball coach; he soon became the varsity team’s assistant coach.By 1968, however, frustrated that he had not become a head coach at St. Joseph or anywhere else, Pingatore had begun pondering a career as a lawyer. 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. He was married to Mary Beth … She added, “He had many opportunities to leave, to coach college, but he stayed. The school made bobblehead dolls of the beloved coach. God Bless to the Pingatore Family , friends, the St. Joes community & all who were made better by knowing and spending time with Coach . “If you don’t have that and its just about wins and losses then you have nothing. We will love you forever and miss you. St. Joseph had a massive celebration when Pingatore won his 1,000th game in 2017. Pingatore is the winningest coach in state history, with a … Gene Pingatore, Self: Hoop Dreams. The fact that they all come back, hopefully I did something right.”The Chargers were one of the state’s best teams under Pingatore.
He enrolled at Chicago-Kent College of Law, but left after only a few weeks.He took over the St. Joseph team in late 1969 when its coach, Pat Callahan, resigned.Pingatore’s teams rarely had losing seasons, but it was not until 1999 that St. Joseph won a state championship. Rest in Paradise coach!