2005 Hall of Fame Inductee Gene Pingatore
Legendary high school basketball coach Gene Pingatore—the winningest boys basketball coach in Illinois history—died on Wednesday night June 26th at the age of 83. “Ping”, as he was known in coaching circles leaves us as the winningest boys basketball coach in Illinois history. St. Joseph won two state championships (1999, 2015) under Pingatore, while also capturing six sectional championships during a high point from 1982 to 1988. During his tenure, Pingatore helped produce three McDonald’s All-Americans and led the Chargers to nine state appearances.
On February 11, 2017, Gene recorded his 1,000 win—his overall record was 1035-383—and is still to this day the only Illinois high school basketball coach with over 900 wins. The legendary coach also helped guide some of the state’s greatest talents along their way to stellar careers. Among Pingatore’s star pupils are Indiana Hoosiers great Daryl Thomas, 2010 John R. Wooden Award winner Evan Turner and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.
He became a Chicago and basketball pop culture icon after the release of the critically acclaimed 1994 documentary film Hoop Dreams that chronicled the lives of two inner city boys as they chased their dreams of becoming NBA players. A product of Chicago’s West Side himself, “Ping” was the sixth man on St. Mel’s 1954 City Championship team that defeated a heavily favored DuSable. He earned a scholarship to Loyola Marymount University and was a captain his senior year. He returned to Chicago and continued his winning ways as an integral part and key organizer of one of the most successful 16-Inch softball teams of all time the “American Rivet Sobies”. Pingatore handpicked various players to form a team that won over 700 games in a decade. Had back to back 100 wins seasons in 1971 &72, won 3-ASA national titles in 1966,1967,1968 and four World Series Titles in 1974,1975,1977,1980.
Vince Bertuca, a St. Joseph’s alum and longtime family friend stated on his Facebook page, “He never had a lot of money; yet he is one of richest men I’ve ever known. It meant more to him to raise money for St. Joes. The calendar drive, raffle tickets, golf outings etc. The unique relationships he had with so many people allowed Coach to always be sure St. Joes would be the special place and Catholic institution he envisioned it to be. Besides being the greatest coach in IHSA history, he should be considered one of the greatest fundraisers as well. This man influenced more people than anyone I’ve ever known. His ability to be enthusiastic and excited every day when he walked into the doors at St. Joe’s is something out of the movies. It goes without saying there will never be anyone like Gene Pingatore again.”
2007 Inductee Tony Barone
Former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Tony Barone Sr. died Tuesday at the age of 72. His son, Tony Barone Jr., confirmed the news to Geoff Calkins of the Daily Memphian. Barone was named the Grizzlies' interim head coach during the 2006-07 season after the dismissal of Mike Fratello. He guided the team to a 16-36 record across 52 games after spending the previous two years as the NBA franchise's director of player personnel.
The Chicago native spent three seasons as a reserve guard at Duke from 1965 through 1968. He returned to the Blue Devils program in 1972 as an assistant, but not before he went home to his alma mater, St. George High School, to fill a multifaceted role. "I coached football, basketball, ran the intramural program and ran the bookstore," Barone said, per Calkins. "I was making $6,500 a year and I thought I was a millionaire."
After a stint as an assistant at Bradley, he took his first head coaching job in the collegiate ranks with Creighton in 1985.
He led the Bluejays to a 102-82 record, highlighted by a 24-8 mark in his final year with the program, and two NCAA tournament appearances across six seasons. Texas A&M hired Barone away from Creighton in 1991, but he was unable to coach the Aggies to any March Madness berths in seven years.
Barone was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Remembering Fr. John Smyth
Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame President Charlie Carey issued this statement. “We are saddened by the news of the death of Father John Smyth today. For over 20 years, Father Smyth was our leader and spiritual compass, first as the President of Maryville Academy and more recently with his Standing Tall Foundation. He leaves a legacy of unparalleled good will due to his dedication to the plight of disadvantaged children and his example as a caring, kind, and charismatic pastor. As one of the founders of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, he was our champions champion, as a player, coach, and enthusiastic fan. He was a legend at Notre Dame, and a colleague, mentor and personal friend to me for many years. Chicago has lost one of our heroes. God bless you, John. You will be missed.”
Rev. John P. Smyth, age 84. June 5, 1934 - April 16, 2019.
Executive Director of the Rev. John P. Smyth Standing Tall Charitable Foundation. Former Executive Director of Maryville Academy and former President of Notre Dame College Prep. Devoted son of Michael and Frances Smyth. Fond brother of Frances (Joseph) Eraci, the late Patricia (the late William) Sheehan, Michael J. Smyth and Bernard J. (Lou) Smyth. Uncle to many nieces and nephews. Born in Chicago, Fr. Smyth was a graduate of St. Genevieve Grammar School and DePaul Academy. He graduated from of the University of Notre Dame in 1957.
He captained the Notre Dame basketball team his senior year; was selected an All-American; and was a draft choice of the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks. He elected to forgo a professional basketball career and entered the seminary. Fr. Smyth was ordained a priest on April 28, 1962. While at Maryville, Fr. Smyth was the catalyst behind “Chuckwagon Day” the largest one-day fundraiser in the State of Illinois. He was the recipient of innumerable awards during his tenure at Maryville Academy, including the President’s Child Safety partnership award presented to him by President Ronald Reagan and the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal. Fr. Smyth was inducted as a Laureate in the Lincoln Academy of Illinois for his work in the field of social services. This is the highest honor an Illinois Governor can bestow upon a citizen of the State. Fr. Smyth received the Loyola University, Stritch School of Medicine, “Sword of Loyola” in November 1994. He was the Notre Dame Club of Chicago “Man of the Year” and received numerous awards related to the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Smyth was inducted into the Sport’s Faith International Hall of Fame in 2009. He was President, Vice President and an inductee of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
Despite his inability to speak Spanish, he is regarded by many in the Hispanic community as the founding father of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A champion for children, Fr. Smyth’s legacy will live on through his Standing Tall Charitable Foundation. “No person stands so tall as the one who stoops to help a child.”
Memorial contributions in support of Fr. Smyth’s mission may be made to:
Standing Tall Charitable Foundation
1100 N. River Rd
Des Plaines, IL 60016
Or go to our website: