AL HAMNIK: 'Pistol Pete' was right on target with hoops career

2014-03-22T18:00:00Z 2014-07-07T22:08:37Z AL HAMNIK: 'Pistol Pete' was right on target with hoops careerAl Hamnik Times Columnist
March 22, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

Pete Trgovich is a guy who feasted in the basketball buffet line, sampling everything with delight.

And the desserts, wow, they were really filling.

"Pistol Pete" helped lead East Chicago Washington to a 29-0 record and the Indiana high school state championship in 1971.

That magnificent array of talent averaged 95.4 points for the regular season, broke 100 on eight occasions, had seven Division I players and could've beaten today's Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.

In 1975, Trgovich starred for legendary coach John Wooden's NCAA champion UCLA Bruins, who knocked off Kentucky 92-85 for Wooden's 10th and final title.

The Pistol contributed 16 points in that win.

Then in 2007, Trgovich coached E.C. Central to the Indiana Class 4A state championship with his Big 3 of E'Twaun Moore, Angel Garcia and Kawann Short.

Moore now plays for the Orlando Magic, Short is a defensive lineman on the Carolina Panthers, and Garcia is shooting 3s somewhere overseas.

"The bottom line, I was in the right place at the right time because I was able to play with great players and then coach great players," Trgovich said.

As for which sporting milestone was the biggest of his career, the Hall of Famer didn't need time to think.

"The state championship as a player," Trgovich said. "Indiana basketball. Hoosier Hysteria. Single class tournament. All the great players who went through there. Being the last team to win a state championship at Hinkle Fieldhouse."

With the NCAA tournament underway, the nation's focus shifts to brackets, top seeds, underdogs, upsets, contenders, pretenders and nonstop TV coverage.

We didn't have ESPN, SportsCenter, the Internet, tweets, cell phones, blogs, emails and cable when Trgovich played at UCLA, but the Bruins were still a national phenomenon from a distance, like watching the Academy Awards at home.

"We weren't playing in domes where there were 40,000 or 50,000 people," Trgovich noted. "Tickets were harder to get then, but at least you had a good view."

The Final Four in 1975 was held in San Diego and featured UCLA, Kentucky, Louisville and Syracuse.

"It was so special," Trgovich said. "When you got there, the whole basketball world was watching you."

The game was different then. Freshmen couldn't play varsity. There was no dunking or 3-point shot.

In Trgovich's freshman season, Bill Walton and Keith Wilkes were sophomores; Henry Bibby the lone senior.

Pete's teammates his senior year included Richard Washington, Andre McCarter, Dave Meyers, Marcus Johnson and 7-foot-2 Ralph Drollinger.

"People don't realize how good you had to be just to get into the rotation, let alone be a star," Trgovich said. "Coach Wooden only used six or seven players most of the time unless he was up by 30 points."

Fast forward to 2014 and a cold reality check.

Consider all the big-name coaches making millions each season and then losing early at the Big Dance or scurrying from school to school like roaches.

Dubbed the "Wizard of Westwood," Wooden won seven straight national championships and 10 in his 12 seasons at UCLA, where he was 620-147.

And he never made more than $35,000 in a season.

That's like telling Noah to catch the next ark.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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