Chargers breeze past Leo after tribute to Pingatore for 900th win
Updated: January 29, 2013 2:32PM
WESTCHESTER — St. Joseph officials honored legendary coach Gene Pingatore in a pregame ceremony Friday night, presenting the state’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach with a plaque commemorating his 900th career victory.
Then Pingatore’s players gave him with another gift — victory No. 902.
Senior guard Loren Horton sank his first three shots en route to a game-high 13 points and the host Chargers eased past Leo 55-39 in a Catholic League North contest in Westchester.
“It’s not about Gene Pingatore,” Pingatore told the crowd. “It’s all about the outstanding assistant coaches and players and the fans that we’ve had over the last 43 years. It’s all about the people in attendance and I hope we keep it going.”
Pingatore, who recorded his 900th win Dec. 28 against Proviso West, came to St. Joseph in 1960 and spent nine years as an assistant before taking over the program in 1969. Now in his 44th season, he has a career record of 902-314 and is just the 23rd coach in the nation to reach 900 wins, according to the National Federation of High School Associations record book.
Even though he’s old enough to be their grandfather, his players still respect and look up to Pingatore.
“Coming from another school, you kind of know about ‘Ping’ anywhere you are, any high school that you go to,” said Horton, a transfer from St. Patrick. “It’s a level of standards that you have to meet playing here.”
The Chargers (9-8, 1-1) readily admit they haven’t quite lived up to expectations this winter, though they have shown flashes of their physical talent. St. Joseph was never threatened against Leo (1-12, 0-2) but didn’t really take control of the contest until the third quarter.
“It’s been a struggle,” Pingatore said. “We’re just inconsistent. We do some good things and then turn right around and do something dumb. They’ve got to get smarter. Hopefully it will catch on.”
Horton scored eight points in the first quarter to give the Chargers a 13-9 lead. The hosts led 26-19 at halftime but started the second half strong as A.J. Patty fed Karriem Simmons for an inside bucket and Horton drained a 3-pointer.
St. Joseph did not commit a turnover until the penultimate minute of the third quarter and outscored the Lions 17-9 in the period. A 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter extended the cushion to 50-29.
Simmons and Glynn Watson each scored eight points for the Chargers, with Watson adding six rebounds and three assists. Joffery Brown added seven points and four steals, Turner had six points, five boards, three steals and three assists and Patty chipped in five points and 10 rebounds. Marshon Tucker paced Leo with 12 points.
“I think we’re showing character, that just because we’re playing inconsistent (doesn’t mean) we can’t play good at some times,” Horton said. “Ping has stayed with us. He’s encouraged us. He’s saying, ‘Come on guys, we’ve got to do this,’ even though it’s inconsistent. He believes in us.”
Pingatore has no plans to retire and doesn’t get misty-eyed over coaching milestones, but he doesn’t shy away from talking about tradition with his players.
“It’s all memories of all the people that contributed,” Pingatore said. “We get (new players) coming in and we talk about those things. We’ll start talking about five years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago.
“That’s what it’s about, all the great coaches that assisted me, all the great players that have played, the fans that keep coming out. I don’t enjoy it all the time (but) I still have the passion.”