NJCAA Region IV honor follows career coaching record of 480–88; home record of 265–15
SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (March 3, 2023) – John Pigatti’s coaching career started when he was still in high school and has taken him all over the country.
And now it’s taken the South Suburban College men’s basketball coach to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region IV Hall of Fame after his recent induction.
With the Bulldogs fresh off of another successful season that ended against Waubonsee in the Region IV semifinals, Pigatti hasn’t had time to reflect on this latest honor. But it wasn’t something he expected as he worked his way up through the coaching ranks.
Moving up the ranks
He led a variety of grade-school and high-school teams while he was going to school himself, and he didn’t waste much time moving on to the college ranks once he left the University of Dayton.
There were stops at Elmhurst, Creighton, Texas A&M, Western Michigan, St. Joseph’s (Ind.), Akron, Chicago State, Kent State, and St. Francis (Pa.). Pigatti was an assistant at all those schools, and 17 years ago he was looking for a program of his own to run. He was hired at South Suburban, which was near rock-bottom. The Bulldogs had won six games the year before and had six players on their roster, only one of whom was academically eligible.
Putting down roots
But from those humble beginnings, Pigatti has built one of the country’s most successful junior-college programs and, just as importantly, has set down roots with his family: his wife Kim, who also works at SSC; daughter Ashley, and son Andrew.
“The Region is a good place to raise our family,” said Pigatti, whose children have both attended Illiana Christian. (Ashley is now in grad school at Calvin College, and Andrew is an Illiana senior).
“We built our roots here,” Pigatti said.
Winning on the Court
Pigatti laid a foundation of success at SSC, consistently being ranked in the NJCAA Division II top 10 and winning 12 regional titles. He also has coached five national players of the year, including the past three years’, along with 16 All-Americans. Last season, the Bulldogs had an undefeated run to the national title, finishing 33–0.
Winning off the court
As impressive as all those numbers are, Pigatti may be most proud of this one: 85. That’s how many Bulldogs have gone on to four-year schools on his watch.
The head basketball coaching job was a part-time position before Pigatti arrived, but he now also serves as the school’s manager of athletic recruiting, retention, and transfer. It’s a mission he takes seriously, both in bringing in athletes who for whatever reason needed a fresh start and in assisting players with the next chapter in their athletic and academic careers.
“Since this new transfer portal is the way of the new millennium, I’ve taken to that philosophy as well,” Pigatti said. “We’re like a ‘Last Chance U.’ for them,” he added, referring to the popular reality show.
At South Suburban, Pigatti said, “they’ve got a platform to develop as a person, develop their game, and move on to four-year schools.”
No plans to move
Will there be any moving on for Pigatti as he nears 60 and approaches the end of his 17th season in South Holland?
He doesn’t have any plans to leave.
“Being a head coach here, you’re your own boss,” Pigatti said. “Being an assistant forever, I wanted to be my own boss.
“I just take it day by day. I tell the guys, ‘It’s your team, it’s my program.’”
South Suburban College is located at 15800 South State Street in South Holland.