History has caught up to Dick Van Scyoc. The former boys basketball coach won the Class AA state title at Manual in 1994, then retired following that season as the state’s all-time wins leader with 826.
Fourteen years later, two other Illinois coaching icons — Westchester St. Joseph’s Gene Pingatore and Rockford Boylan’s Steve Goers — are poised to pass Coach Van. Both Pingatore and Goers have 824 wins heading into tonight’s games.
Journal Star reporter Greg Stewart spoke with Van Scyoc this week and asked him about the record and how he felt about being bumped from the top of the totem pole.
Q: The inevitable is about to happen. Coach Goers and Coach Pingatore are about to pass you as the state’s all-time wins leader. What are your thoughts on the topic?
A: “Both of them are great guys. I’m for either one of them. Fact is I’m for both of them. I’m not sitting here worrying when it’s going happen because I know it’s going to happen. I’m friends with both of them and all I can do is pull for them.”
Q: When you achieved that milestone and retired, you had to know that someday, somebody would pass you ...
A: “When I got into that (Hall of Fame) and they were talking to me about Coach Trout and Coach Eveland and Coach Fletcher and fellas like that, guys I was chasing, I couldn’t believe I was in a group with those guys. To know I’ll still be there, regardless of what happens down the line, is pretty special.”
Q: For 14 years you had that distinction of being the state’s all-time wins leader. What did that mean to you?
A: “It’s hard to think it’s been 14 years, almost unbelievable.”
Q: Do you ever feel like you could jump back in for a season or two and pad your record?
A: “When I look back on it, I feel like I should have stayed in it a couple more years. If I would have been going for a record, I certainly wouldn’t have walked away in ’94 when we had all those guys coming back who won a state championship for me.”
Q: Have you talked to either of those guys recently, Steve or Gene?
A: “I’ve talked to Coach Goers and tried to call Coach Pingatore but couldn’t reach him. I’m sure they know I’m in their corner and not sitting back, hoping they don’t get it. That wouldn’t be me at all.”
Q: Looking back on it, what are the one or two things you take from your career?
A: “We never tried to pick out easy teams to play. I always tried to get the toughest schedule — I don’t care where I was coaching, be it Armington, Washington or Manual — I tried to schedule the best opponents we could to try and get our team better. Looking back on it, maybe I should have scheduled some easier teams and maybe got a few more wins, but I don’t think our overall record would be as good.”
Q: So of those 826, there weren’t too many cupcakes in there?
A: “No. No. All anybody has to do is go back and look at our schedules.”
Q: Any team or coach that sticks out in your mind as a real nemesis?
A: “Quincy was always a tough battle for us. Coach Leggett was an outstanding coach and they were always well prepared. But I hate to mention teams because they’re all tough. Pekin with Coach Hawkins, John Thiel at Galesburg, Bob Basarich at Lockport, the Chicago schools, Coach Allen at Oak Park. I could go down the list ... Bennie Lewis at East St. Louis. When you start naming names, you’ll leave somebody out ... and they may be hurt just a little bit but you certainly didn’t intend to do that to anyone. That’s why I hate to name names.”
Q: Have you been able to get out and see any games this year?
A: “I listen to them on the news. I’ll get out and catch one pretty soon. When the weather starts warming up and we get off this ice, I’ll get out there. I don’t want to take a chance of slipping on this ice and having an accident.”
Q: How is your health?
A: “I got both hips and both knees (replaced) and I’m feeling good.”
Q: So you could probably play a game or two?
A: “Yeah, I could probably get out there and play a little bit.”
Immediately after this interview, Van Scyoc called the Journal Star office and asked that we include the following statement:
“I give all my players and assistant coaches a lot of credit, too. It wasn’t all Van Scyoc, but a lot of hard work by a lot of good people went into those 826 wins.”