When Gerald “Chips” Giovanine retired after more than 30 years of coaching basketball, family, friends and former players gathered to honor the long-time coach.
“It was supposed to be a roast where they give the coach a hard time,” said Giovanine’s son, Grey. “Each guy got up and began to tell a story or a joke, then one after another they broke down and talked about how they have leaned on his messages and teachings as their lives unfolded.
“I began to look at my father in a different light at that event. I began to see what he meant to young men as a mentor and coach. That’s when the term coaching took on a new meaning for me.”
Chips Giovanine, the former La Salle-Peru, Buda Western and Bureau Township coach who passed away Saturday at 77, had that impact on so many players because he approached coaching as more than a job.
“When someone says the word coach, in my mind, it’s not a job. It’s a calling,” said Grey Giovanine, who played for his father at Buda Western and is now the Augustana College men’s basketball coach. “It’s a vocation. That’s how he approached it. When I was growing up, there were players in our house all the time. There were no set hours for his work. It was much more a way of life than a job.”
Dedication to his calling led to immense success for Chips Giovanine, who compiled a 674-265 career record — a .718 winning percentage.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy more prepared than he was,” said former WLPO sports director Lanny Slevin, who called many of Giovanine’s games. “He was scouting all the time — he and his wife Mary Ellen. I don’t know if she realized when they got married she was going to spend most of her life in a gym.
“He had a computer-like filing system before computers. He had everything written down and categorized. He could tell you the starting lineup and stats on just about anybody.”
Giovanine, a DePue High School graduate, began his coaching career at Bureau Township High School, where he went 75-10 in three seasons, including a 28-1 mark in 1959-60.
He moved to Buda Western where he compiled a 295-129 in 16 seasons. His tenure in Buda was highlighted by an 85-6 stretch from 1975-77. The Rams advanced to the state semifinals in 1974-75 and again in 1975-76.
Giovanine then moved to L-P and finished his career with 16 successful seasons guiding the Cavaliers.
L-P went 304-126, won nine Class AA regional titles with Giovanine at the helm. His best season at L-P was his last when the Cavs went 25-5 and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1992-93.
“He was very organized and very thorough,” said Paul Kramarsic, who served as an assistant for Giovanine and followed him as L-P’s head coach. “He loved the game of basketball. He put everything into it. I learned so much from him just being an assistant for 11 years under him.”
Chips Giovanine earned many honors in his long career. He was the Class A Coach of the Year in 1975 and the Class AA Coach of the Year in 1990 along with the National Region Four Coach of the Year in 1991.
He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994. In 1998, he received a meritorious service award from the IBCA.
“Chips was a great guy,” Kramarsic said. “I enjoyed being around him for all those years. We spent a lot of time together at games, practices and scouting. We got along very well. He had a lot of friends. He knew everybody, it seemed, in the whole state basketball-wise. He was a great guy and was very deserving of all the accolades he received.”
It was recently announced Giovanine is the 2014 recipient of the IBCA’s Tom “Buzzy” O’Connor Award, which is given to the individual in the IBCA who best exemplifies the characteristics of O’Connor, who died at 35 after battling leukemia.
“He had a great career,” Slevin said. “He just loved basketball. He was, to me, the epitome of a basketball coach, but he also was a fan. He just loved it. … He lived and died basketball. He was a good friend and a great guy.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.