July 1, 2019 11:00 pm
Kartemquin Films is sad to learn of the passing of Gene Pingatore, who featured prominently in our 1994 film Hoop Dreams.
Pingatore coached basketball at St. Joseph High School in Westchester for over 50 years and holds the title of the winningest boys' basketball coach in Illinois history.
"We first met “Ping” at the very beginning before we had filmed anything at all. We sought his help to reach out to Isiah Thomas with hopes of filming him and the city court he grew up playing on. Ping was very supportive and also introduced us to Earl Smith, which led us to Arthur, which led us back to Ping, and William. So you could certainly say, there would be no Hoop Dreams without Ping. He was as dedicated a coach as there ever was."
- Steve James
In the early days of making the documentary, filmmakers Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert began their process of finding suitable subjects with a meeting with Pingatore, who introduced them to "Big Earl" Smith, a scout. In the opening section of the film, Smith spots the talent of Arthur Agee, and encourages him to go to St. Joe's for Pingatore's summer tryouts. While there, the filmmakers are told by Pingatore that he also has another hot prospect they should follow for the film: William Gates. Read more about Pingatore's pivotal role in the lives of Will and Arthur, and in the making of the film, in this oral history of the making of Hoop Dreams.
"Coach Pingatore is and always will be a legendary figure in the Chicago and Illinois world of basketball. The true testament of his life is the positive effect Coach had on the lives of his players, their families and his community. Personally, seeing Ping and William's relationship grow and mature over the last 25 years has been remarkable to experience. I thank him for letting us into his life, opening the doors to allow us to go on the journey that became Hoop Dreams."
- Peter Gilbert