Chicago’s Gene Pingatore to Coach McDonald’s All-American Game


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You might have seen Gene Pingatore, Coach of St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois in the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams,” which followed two high school students with dreams of playing in the NBA.

Or perhaps on the Big Ten Network, catching up with former players: 2010 College Basketball Player of the Year and second overall pick in the NBA Draft Evan Turner from the Ohio State Buckeyes; or Illinois Fighting Illini senior point guard Demetri McCamey, a likely first round NBA pick this June.

Now you’ll see him lead the Boys West versus Bob Cimmino Jr. of Mount Vernon High School. The prep head coach in New York will lead the Boys East team.

The four coaches who will lead the top high school talent in the country during the 2011 McDonald’s All American® Games on Wednesday, March 30 at the United Center in Chicago were selected today (The teams will be announced February 10th). Dorothy Gaters of Marshall High School in Chicago will lead the Girls West team while Mary Klinger of Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, N.J. will coach the Girls East team.

By Paul M. Banks

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Pingatore  is one of Illinois’ winningest head coaches of all-time. He has 862 victories during a 41-year tenure at St. Joseph High School. The 2010 National High School Athletic Coaches Association Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, Pingatore has advanced to the state semi-finals on four separate occasions, bringing home a state title during the 1999 season.

Pingatore has helped produce countless college and professional players including former McDonald’s All Americans Isiah Thomas in 1979, Daryl Thomas in 1983 and Deryl Cunningham 1989. Thomas, currently an assistant at St. Joseph’s, will join Pingatore on the sidelines for the 2011 Games along with fellow St. Joseph assistant Bill Riley.

“I have been blessed with a number of great players over the years, but never all at one time,” Pingatore said.

“That’s going to be the experience, you don’t coach those kids you really enjoy and watch them. They’re going to have fun with this…I hope I don’t screw them up (laughter). I won’t know what to do with all that size, that’s one thing.”

Coach Pingatore was born and raised in Cicero, Ill. and is a graduate of St. Mel High School on Chicago.

“The four coaches we selected to lead the 2011 McDonald’s All American Games combine for more than 2,500 wins and 120 years of head-coaching experience,” said Douglas Freeland, McDonald’s Director of Marketing and program manager for the McDonald’s All American Games. “We’re extremely proud that some of the greatest coaching legends in high school basketball history will be calling the shots at our Games in Chicago.”

The Girls Game begins at 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPNU), Boys Game at 9. (ESPN). Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster or the United Center box office. Parking is free.

Getting to coach a high school game in the House that MJ Built will be a special honor.

“”How many times will a high school coach be able to do that? That’s rare!” Pingatore said.

“As a direct result probably of Title IX, I’ve had the female version of Michael Jordan, so I’ll be glad to be in his house,” Gaters said.

She is referring to two-time WNBA Champion and Finals MVP, Cappie Pondexter, one of five future WNBA players Gaters has coached.

Proceeds from the 2011 McDonald’s All American Games will benefit families and children in need through Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI). Funds raised will go directly to the construction of the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House, which will be located in downtown Chicago.

Pingatore is an entertaining guy and will certainly bring plenty of personality courtside in March.

“When I got the call, I said are you sure you have the right guy? Have you seen what our record is this year?” He joked during the announcement press conference.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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  1. […] The state of Illinois has produced the third most (58). The West will be coached by local legend Gene Pingatore, who coached many famous stars at St. Joseph’s in suburban Westchester including: Detroit […]

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