After three exciting seasons as men’s head basketball coach at Indiana University Northwest, Pete Trgovich, Jr., announced Monday that he would not return to the team for the 2010-11 season. Trgovich, whose son, Pete Trgovich III, led the NAIA in scoring this season, was 30-63 with the RedHawks during his tenure, but those numbers hardly reflect his impact on a program that was greatly invigorated by his arrival in 2007.
“I’ve told people that I’ve had the best job in the world here the past three years,” Trgovich said. “I appreciate IU Northwest for giving me this opportunity. I have memories from here that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
“We’ve been lucky to have Coach Trgovich here for the past three years. It was a special time,” IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland said Monday. “I would like to thank Pete for bringing a renewed sense of excitement and possibility to campus athletics at IU Northwest. His teams’ achievements on the court, and the culture and expectation of success that he helped to establish within our sports program, have fundamentally changed the way we view intercollegiate athletics on this campus. I very much appreciate the dedication and commitment Pete has shown to our university, and I wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in his career.”
Trgovich is a special-education teacher at East Chicago, and he is currently seeking his master’s degree in secondary education from the IU Northwest School of Education. With his course work now complete, Trgovich needs only to complete his exit project to receive his degree. It’s a time-intensive undertaking, something he said he put off while serving as coach of the RedHawks.
“This is something I’ve been working toward for quite some time. From a professional standpoint, now is the time for me to complete that,” he said. “I thought a lot about this decision, and I discussed it with my wife, and I really feel like this is the right choice for me. But I have nothing but positive thoughts about IU Northwest and the time I have spent with this program, and I want to thank the university for giving me the opportunity to coach at the college level.”
Charles Gary, Ph.D., director of student life and athletics at IU Northwest, praised Trgovich’s accomplishments with the team and also lauded his contribution to the athletic program as a whole. Gary noted that Trgovich’s arrival spurred interest in the program among athletes, the media, and the campus community, and helped to inspire other coaches, such as women’s head basketball coach Ryan Shelton, to become part of the program.
“What you saw was a very positive ripple effect that Pete created throughout our program when he came to IU Northwest. That is something that I, personally, am very grateful to him for,” Gary said. “He gave RedHawk athletics instant visibility and credibility, and what he and his players were able to accomplish on the court showed that he was the right coach at the right time for IU Northwest.
“We are a much different program today than we were three years ago, and that is directly related to what Coach Trgovich brought to the university,” the athletic director added. “I respect Pete’s decision to step down as coach and wish him and Pete III all the best in the future. They will always be valued members of our RedHawk family.”
Trgovich is a 1971 graduate of East Chicago Washington High School, where he was a member of the school’s legendary state championship team. He also coached the E.C. Central Cardinals to a Class 4A state title in 2007, before resigning that position and joining IU Northwest. As a player, Trgovich won two NCAA titles with UCLA while playing for Coach John Wooden.
From that tradition of winning, Trgovich and his son came to an IU Northwest program that lacked much tradition at all. After a tough first season in which the team won only three games, the RedHawks set a school record with 21 victories in 2008-09 and went to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Tournament.
But the highlight of that season came on Dec. 22, 2008, when the NAIA D-II RedHawks traveled to Richmond, Ky., to face the NCAA D-I Eastern Kentucky Colonels, and won it 74-73. Trgovich said at the time that it was the highlight of his coaching career, topping even his state title win with E.C. Central.
“That was just a fantastic feeling. I’ll never forget that night,” he said. “I was happy for our guys, because they were able to experience what it was like to win a game like that.”
The loss of a few key players posed some challenges for the RedHawks in the 2009-10 season, but Trgovich expressed pride in his team’s ability to remain competitive in most of their ball games even with a largely inexperienced roster. And Trgovich III enjoyed his most productive season ever, averaging 27.9 points per game to lead the NAIA, and being selected as a First Team All-American by the USCAA.
Trgovich III scored a season-high 47 points against the Indiana Institute of Technology on Feb. 8. The IU Northwest business grad finished his final year of eligibility as the university’s all-time scoring leader with more than 1,800 career points.
"I could not be prouder of the way Pete showed leadership, and the manner in which he conducted himself during his career at IU Northwest," Trgovich said. “Having the opportunity to coach here, and to coach my son for three seasons, has been the highlight of my career.”
With both Trgoviches exiting the program, along with Pete III’s fellow senior Jesse Howell, IU Northwest now finds itself in the market for a head coach who’s ready to supplement a young roster with a strong recruiting effort. Gary said he would like to have a new coach hired by early May.
“We’d like to maintain the considerable forward momentum that Coach Trgovich brought to our men’s basketball program,” Gary said. “To do that, we need to find our next coach fairly quickly. This is a college coaching job at an up-and-coming program, in a region with a very rich basketball heritage. I am looking forward to hearing from some very talented and motivated candidates.”