Boys Basketball

Althoff’s Leib remembers a mentor in Illinois coaching legend Gene Pingatore

Althoff coach Greg Leib is doused by players after super-sectional win

Althoff head basketball coach Greg Leib first gets distracted by his players during a television interview, then gets doused from their water bottles. The Crusaders celebrated with their coach following their 83-69 win over Springfield Southeast a
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Althoff head basketball coach Greg Leib first gets distracted by his players during a television interview, then gets doused from their water bottles. The Crusaders celebrated with their coach following their 83-69 win over Springfield Southeast a

Illinois high school basketball suffered a loss late Wednesday with news that Westchester St. Joesph coach Gene Pingatore died at the age of 83

Illinois’ all-time leader in coaching victories with a career record of 1,035-383, Pingatore coached the Chargers for 50 years. Known for his class and coaching basketball “the right way,” Pingatore’s legacy was remembered by coaches around the state on Thursday.

Althoff basketball coach Greg Leib will always remember the first time he met the legend, and it wasn’t under the most pleasant of circumstances.

Playing in one of the marquee games at the first Bank of O’Fallon Shootout in 2015, the battle of Class 3A state powers was an epic battle, which St. Joseph won, 97-95, in double overtime.

“It was just a great, great high school basketball game,’’ Leib said. “Anyway, after the game I went off alone and after about 30 minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I just decided I had to meet this guy, so I went and introduced myself. He was so gracious. We must have talked for 30-45 minutes.’’

A little over a month later, Pingatore led the Chargers to another win over Althoff., this time a 67-63 win in the Class 3A state title game at the Peoria Civic Center.

Leib and the Crusaders, led by all-stater and current St. Louis University standout Jordan Goodwin, last faced Pingatore in the Class 3A State Tournament semifinals, defeating the Chargers 66-62. Althoff went on to defeat Lincoln-Way West 62-37 for Belleville’s first state basketball championship.

The 2016 Class 3A state tournament was the last for Pingatore who also led the Chargers to the Class AA state title in 1999. In Pingatore’s 50 year career, St. Joesph’s won 13 sectional titles and advanced to the state tournament six times.

Piingatore coached NBA Hall of Fame member Isaiah Thomas who and current Atlanta Hawks star Evan Turner and had a starring role in the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams.”

Since meeting Pingatore five years ago, Leib said the two had become friends.

“This is a real shock to me.. Coach Pingatore and I spoke every few months. I just spoke to him in late April or early May about some of the (basketball) events going on in the Chicago area this summer.

“”Coach (Pingatore) was what all of us in this profession to aspire to be. He was total class in every way.’’

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