MICHIGAN CITY – I do not know Pete Trgovich.
I have never met the man or even interviewed him one time in my nearly 29 years of covering high school athletics in this state.
For all I know, he may be a great person.
That being said, the East Chicago Central boys basketball coach will never grace one of the IHSAA Sportsmanship posters that you see in schools throughout Indiana.
In fact, after his postgame thoughts on Saturday afternoon, he may be asked by the governing body to sit in a room and listen to the pregame sportsmanship announcement that is read before many games like 100 times.
Trgovich, who has won state championships as both a star player and a coach at ECC, was livid following a 61-59 loss in double overtime to Warsaw in the second semifinal game of the Class 4-A Michigan City Regional on Saturday.
A few facts on the game before I share some opinions.
Warsaw knocked off the Cardinals on a pair of free throws by star senior Kyle Mangas with 2.1 seconds left. The free throws came after Deontay Bonaparte of ECC was whistled for a foul as Mangas, who was double teamed by Bonaparte and Jermaine Couisnard, tried to gather in a 3/4 court inbounds pass from Asher Blum.
I’m not going to comment, unlike Trgovich, on the officiating in the game or the final call.
I will say that the photos and the videos of the play in question are out there for all to see, if anyone has not looked at them yet.
Mangas, who scored his team’s first 16 points of the contest, finished the game with a career-high 47 points. The outstanding guard hit 15-17 free throws versus the aggressive Cardinals defense, drawing numerous fouls with hard drives to the basket.
The Tigers went 17-23 from the line in the win. ECC was 7-8 from the stripe. Warsaw was called for 12 fouls and the Cardinals 21. One player from ECC fouled out in the game.
ECC star guard Couisnard, who is being recruited by several fine Division I college programs and even took an unofficial visit to Kansas prior to the sectional, picked up three fouls in the first quarter. Couisnard, who was averaging 27 points-per-game, finished with 18 points on 5-16 shooting.
Also. for the record, Mangas was called for four fouls in the contest.
Trgovich, who I did not interview following the chaotic, frantic finish to an otherwise classic game, did not bite his tongue at all in discussing the gut-wrenching loss that ended his team’s season.
“The call at the end of the game, that is what is wrong with the IHSAA,” Trgovich said in a story published Sunday in the Chicago Tribune. “No one evaluates those officials, and they come out and give us that kind of a referee.”
Trgovich, who won a pair of national championships playing for John Wooden at UCLA, was just getting warmed up in his postgame tirade.
“Let the kids determine the outcome of the game,” Trgovich said. “What is the consequences for the officials? Nothing. They should be embarrassed. The IHSAA should be embarrassed.
Trgovich said it looked the officials “were cheating us. I feel the IHSAA should know what is going on with these officials.”
“I can’t evaluate a game like that,” he said. “Our kids couldn’t do anything. It was so blatant who the officials wanted to win. The IHSAA doesn’t have any checks or balances on these guys. They just move on to the next game.”
I understand a coach being critical of officials. I’ve dealt with that countless times throughout my sportswriting career.
Officials miss calls in every game at every level of competition. It’s called being human. Just like players and coaches make mistakes during every game at every level of competition too.
For comparison sake, Warsaw coach Doug Ogle did not point the finger at anyone or assign blame to others for his team’s tough 50-46 loss to Merrillville in the title game Saturday night.
Ogle gave credit to the Pirates, who beat the Tigers twice this season, calling them “a very good team,” in his postgame remarks to the media.
I’m not saying here, either, that Trgovich was obligated to praise Warsaw for the win or Mangas for an absolutely incredible individual performance. It’s his prerogative to talk about whatever he wants to.
Trgovich, whose team is comprised of mainly African-Americans, though really stepped out of bounds with one postgame remark.
“For two years, I’ve come here and they haven’t had one (black) official. That is wrong.”
For the record, the three officials who worked the ECC-Warsaw game were white. One of the three officials for the championship game Saturday night was African-American.
Trgovich crossed a line with his remark in relation to the skin color of the men in stripes. He set a very bad precedent as an educator of young men by telling them that it’s okay to blame others and make excuses when things do not go your way.
A wrong life lesson for any coach to teach, let alone one who is coaching 16, 17, 18 year olds.
Like I said, I do not know Pete Trgovich.
Let’s just hope that he had a turnover on this one.