Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Don't call me Coach'

By Steve Hanlon
Times of Northwest Indiana

(reprinted with permission)

Pete Trgovich played for UCLA under Coach John Wooden from 1972-75

John Calipari was inside the John A. Baratto Center in September. The
men's basketball coach at Memphis was watching the E.C. Central players
at an open gym. He was observing junior Angel Garcia, whom Calipari is

As the balls bounced on the floor, Cardinals coach
Pete Trgovich spoke strategy with the coach who has made nine NCAA
tournaments in 14 years of Division I coaching and one Final Four.
Calipari spent an hour diagraming his new offensive system on the
chalkboard, as Trgovich took notes.

As the weeks went on, Trgovich and Calipari spoke on the phone every week or two.

long-distance friendship developed, which has helped Trgovich's team
advance to Saturday's Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Semistate against
seven-time state champion Marion. The winner moves on to the state
championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse.

"We haven't had a great
chance of running his stuff, because once we do, we see a zone,"
Trgovich said of Calipari's intricate motion offense, which opens up
the floor for individual one-on-one play. "We've seen a lot of zone
this year."

With three D-I athletes -- Purdue-bound E'Twaun
Moore, Garcia and Kawann Short -- on the floor, that's another reason
people play zone versus E.C. But against Valparaiso in Saturday's
regional championship, when Garcia and Short were in foul trouble,
Trgovich "went small." The perimeter-oriented players ran Calipari's
offense to perfection, continuously getting to the basket against
6-foot-8 standouts Scott Martin and Rob Hummel.

"When you speak
to college coaches, they seem more willing to share stuff," Trgovich
said. "It's a little different with high school coaches."

resume has the greatest college coach in history, UCLA's John Wooden,
on it. After leading E.C. Washington to the 1971 Indiana state
championship, he played for Wooden and was a part of two Bruins
national championship teams. Wooden's shadow hangs over Trgovich, even
if he isn't comfortable with it.

"I tell people, 'Don't call me
Coach,'" Trgovich said. "To me, there was only one coach and that's
John Wooden. Everything we do fundamentally I learned from Coach
Wooden. I want to give him credit. My critics see what we're doing and
they say, 'That's not what Wooden did.'

"And they're right. That's why he's John Wooden and I'm not."

Trgovich moved back to the Region from Southern California, he had no
interest in coaching. Then, he got an itch and became a volunteer
assistant at Purdue Cal and the die was cast. From there, he took over
at South Suburban College, where he was the head coach for four years,
followed by four years as an assistant at Loyola of Chicago.

Every place he's been, Wooden's voice remains in Trgovich's head. And this rings true with these Cardinals.

feel like we're the best conditioned team in the state," Trgovich said.
"Our practices, the kids are always moving, always running."

then laughed about his UCLA days, where the Bruins were told by Wooden
they were the best conditioned team in the country. But the second-year
E.C. coach learned something when he read a book by Wooden a couple of
years ago.

"He said that even if we weren't the best conditioned
team in the country, if we thought we were, then he had done his job as
a coach," Trgovich said.

Like UCLA under the Wizard of Westwood,
E.C. plays a brutal schedule, rated the 27th toughest in the state by
Jeff Sagarin's computer. No other Region team was close. Playing in the
Indianapolis North Central tournament, the Region Roundball Rumble,
along with games against Indianapolis Pike and Arlington, made his team
ready for March.

"We were always playing big games with Wooden,"
Trgovich said. "I agree with that. Those games got us ready for the
postseason, more than anything else."

Another area where
Wooden's shadow hits the gym walls in East Chicago is the expanded time
spent in practice shooting, which was a Wooden trait. While Moore and
Garcia are the best perimeter marksmen, other Cardinals have won
postseason games by knocking down free throws late.

In the past, that didn't happen and E.C. lost big games.

"Hey, we work hard at those," Moore said. "We don't overlook free throws. We can't. If we did we would've lost already."

has brought a lot of college coaches into E.C.'s gym the last three
years. But he said that Calipari's schemes have helped to give the
Cardinals options they didn't have before.

"We've tried that
offense a few times and it's worked pretty good," Moore said. "Because
of what teams have done, we can't do it all the time. But it's been
good when we've used it, like against Valpo."

Trgovich and his
staff have influenced this team in ways the public doesn't always see.
But the shadow of great basketball minds are behind some of the
success. For Trgovich, he just wants to keep the focus on his players.

"If people come up to me and call me Coach, I tell them to just call me Pete," he said.

Note: Pete Trgovich's East Chicago Central Cardinals won the Indiana Class 4A State championship last Saturday, defeating Indianapolis North Central led by stand-out Eric Gordon, 87-83, before a sold-out Conseco Fieldhouse.



At Mar 28, 2007, 10:48:00 AM, Anonymous ty said...

how do you guys get so good

At Jun 2, 2009, 5:43:00 AM, Anonymous K. Peters said...

Pete Trgovich is the man! Always has been always will be. The definition of a winner. Johnny Baratto would be proud.
I watched the games at East Chicago Washignton when I was a kid. John Baratto and John Molodet were great coaches. I played a couple of years at Purdue Cal with Larry Vazonis and Coach Hunt. What fun!
Now Pistol Pete has taken over. What a dream job he is doing. He must be pinching himself daily.


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