East Chicago Central boys basketball coach Pete Trgovich, the subject of controversy following his team’s regional loss to Warsaw on Saturday, resigned this morning.
Trgovich had coached the Cardinals for four seasons in two stints as head coach. He guided ECC to a state championship in 2007 and then returned in 2015. Trgovich, who also coached at Indiana University Northwest, was 75-24 in his tenure with four sectional championships.
Trgovich, who led ECC to a state championship as a player in 1971, was incensed Saturday after his team lost a 61-59 double overtime game to Warsaw in a semifinal matchup of the Class 4-a Michigan City Regional. The Tigers won the game when star Kyle Mangas hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds to play after a foul was called on ECC as Mangas attempted to catch an inbounds pass.
“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.”
“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.”
Trgovich, who is white and whose team is comprised of mainly African-Americans, really came under fire for claiming in his postgame remarks that the three officials were racially biased.
“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, which Warsaw lost 50-46 to a predominately black Merrillville team, was African-American.
The IHSAA was scheduled to meet with Trgovich and ECC administrators, prior to his resignation, this Friday. That meeting was then rescheduled for March 22 at the IHSAA office in Indianapolis.
The IHSAA earlier today (March 15) issued the following statement about the ongoing situation.
“Recently, the School City of East Chicago accepted the resignation of Head Boys’ Basketball Coach Pete Trgovich upon the completion of their season,: said the IHSAA in a release. “IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox and Superintendent Paige McNulty have been in discussions surrounding the unfortunate remarks attributed to the former coach. The IHSAA and the administration of East Chicago will meet in April to chart a course that will enhance the student athlete and fan experience at East Chicago and insure that education‐based athletics in the East Chicago school community assumes its proper position and perspective.”
Trgovich was outraged following the loss in which Warsaw shot 17-23 from the free throw line and ECC was 7-8. Mangas was 15-17 from the stripe in scoring a career-high 47 points. One player from the predominately African American ECC team fouled out. Mangas had four fouls in the contest for the Tigers.
Trgovich was a star player at UCLA where he won a pair of national championships under legendary coach John Wooden. He was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Trgovch’s resignation was confirmed by Superintendent Paige McNulty. The Times of Northwest Indiana reported that Trgovich said in a text message on Monday that he was out of town and would not be available for comment until Friday.