1977-78 (Westchester) St. Joseph High School Boys’ Team

Year Inducted: 2001

Category: Teams

Schools / Organizations: (Westchester) St. Joseph High School


Led by All-State , NCAA champion (Indiana), NBA champion (Detroit Pistons) and Basketball Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas, the 1977-78 St. Joseph varsity basketball team achieved what no other athletic team in school history did to that point by reaching the finals of the state tournament. They went head-to-head with state-ranked (Burbank) St. Laurence High School  in the finals of the Quigley South Thanksgiving Tournament and lost 57-55. They wouldn’t lose again until the finals of the Class AA state tournament in Champaign and were sixth in the final Class AA Associated Press poll.

The road to Champaign included an undefeated East Suburban Catholic Conference championship, a Proviso West Holiday Tournament championship that included a win over Chicago Westinghouse with future DePaul and NBA star Mark Aguirre and a sectional semifinal victory over future Marquette and NBA star and championship coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers and (Maywood)  Proviso East High School.

Thomas and Ray Clark, considered one of the best guard tandems in Illinois basketball history, were instrumental in the Chargers putting together 30 consecutive wins. They beat Westinghouse again in the state quarterfinals and East Rockford in the semifinals before losing to unbeaten and top-ranked Lockport 64-47 in the title game. Thomas led the tournament in scoring with 93 points in 4 games and was an all-tournament selection with Clark.  Second place in the IHSA Class AA tournament and a 31-2 record was truly a Cinderella season under IBCA Hall of Fame head coach Gene Pingatore.

Team Members in the Picture:

Back row (left to right): Assistant Coach Dennis Doyle, Greg Austin, Jack Slaski, Tony Tyler, Pat Callahan, Tyrone Brewer, Anthony Young, Chuck Behrendt, Jim Lenc, George Johnson, Assistant Coach John Hornacek, Head Coach Gene Pingatore.

Middle row (left to right): Trainer Gary Schultz, Manager Bobby Miller, Steve Betts, Bob Weigel, Isiah Thomas, Ray Clark, Pat Bresnahan, Hector Gonzalez, Manager Tom Sheehan, Principal Brother Alfred Marshall.

Front row: Manager Joe O’Conner and Manager Jamie Cameron.