Reflections on 300 wins: People more memorable than games for Augie's Giovanine

Originally Posted Online: Feb. 09, 2011, 9:21 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 09, 2011, 11:59 pm
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By Tom Johnston,

A milestone of 300 victories can mean different things to different coaches.

For Augustana College men's basketball coach Grey Giovanine, who reached that goal with a road win over Wheaton on Wednesday night, the notion of 300 wins could only bring a chuckle.

"When my dad has 700, it's kind of 'oh, well,'" joked Giovanine, in reference to his hall-of-fame coach and father, Chips. "I'm not even halfway there yet."

Jokes aside, Giovanine knows that reaching 300 victories is a special accomplishment. Especially so because he had to wait so long in his career for it after spending 12 years as a college assistant at Valparaiso, Wichita State and Rice before finally getting his own shot at rebuilding the beleaguered NCAA Div. I Lamar program.

He came to Augie in 1999 and has accrued a 220-90 record with the Vikings for an impressive .710 winning percentage. His overall mark, including six seasons at Lamar, is 300-175.

But the 300 plateau is more than a tally of victories.

"Certainly, when you arrive at those milestones, it gives you a little pause to reflect on all the people who have been involved," said Giovanine, "all the terrific young guys you've gotten to interact with, the staff members who have been such a big part of it."

At one point in a recent conversation in his Roy J. Carver Center office, Giovanine was asked to recall his fondest memories of those many victories. He doesn't respond by recalling the upsets of No. 1 teams his club pulled or tournament victories or CCIW titles won. Instead, he leans over, opens a desk drawer and pulls out a file folder overflowing with notes — some handwritten on cards and others printed off e-mails.

He says success isn't measured by wins.

"I think it's the impact that you have and the relationships you develop," said Giovanine. "One of my other favorite sayings, all time, is from another mentor of mine who said, 'You'll know how successful you are, not by the wins and losses, but by the number of wedding invitations you receive.' I've always really believed that to be true, and I've enjoyed a lot of weddings."

He then slides his chair across the room and grabs a photo album. No pictures of a packed Carver Center, no game action shots. He shows off a picture taken at a wedding — with the coach and a number of his former players in formal attire.

"This," he says, "is Augustana basketball."

It is Giovanine, described by his father as a former gym rat.

It is apparent that coaching runs in the bloodlines. Grey says Chips' career "significantly" impacted his career decision.

"Certainly my father was the beginning of it, and I saw how passionate he was about what he did and how much he cared about our players," said Grey, recalling stories of his father and his players and the bonds they formed over the years.

The elder Giovanine says he never steered Grey into the coaching profession.

"He was getting his master's in clinical psychology, and I kind of encouraged him to pursue whatever he wanted, but I certainly didn't direct him toward coaching," said Chips. "I know the many ups and downs of coaching. You sure love the wins, but the losses are tough; all the complications thereof — the parents, personalities, bus rides. All the things that go along with coaching are not always on the surface."

Starting as a graduate assistant at Central Missouri State, where he played his final two years of college ball after two years at Highland Community College, Giovanine had stints as an assistant at Central Missouri, Valparaiso, Oral Roberts University, Rice and Wichita State. At Rice and WSU, he worked with Moline's Scott Thompson.

But Grey's influences run deep and through national college legends.

"I spent so many of my college years involved with some of the great coaches in the country," he admitted. "When I was in college, I was a counselor for Larry Brown at Kansas and Gene Keady at Purdue; for Bob Hill, a long-time NBA coach, Lou Henson at Illinois, and Ted Owens (a disciple of legendary Phog Allen at Kansas), of course.

"My coaching roots come from the two great cradles of the college game — Kentucky and Kansas. Those are the two greatest programs in the history of the college game. The first guy I worked for was Lynn Nance, who was at Kentucky with Joe B. Hall when they were winning national championships. ... Those were the bloodlines that I got the benefit of.

"I'm no genius, but the information that I've gotten has come from the very best in the business in the history of the game."

And it all started with his father, an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

Grey admitted that he and his dad don't talk basketball minutia much, but they still talk the game. Just like they always have. You can bet the son still is listening and taking input.

Dad's best advice?

"You learn more from what you see than what you hear," said Grey. "I watched how committed he was to his craft and how committed he was to his players. That was the biggest influence, not anything he said or the things he did."

While still a few hundred wins short of his dad's plateau, it appears Grey is a chip off the ol' Chips when it comes to winning basketball games.

Grey files

A couple of fast facts about Augustana men's basketball coach Grey Giovanine:

As a player: As part of his dad's 85-5 run at Western High School in Sheffield, he was a key contributor to two undefeated teams. ... He is the all-time leading scorer at Highland Community College with 1,024 points in his two-year career. ... At Central Missouri State, he captained a team that finished 26-2 and was ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II for five straight weeks. He was also the leading free throw shooter in the nation with a percentage of .904.

As a coach: Coming into the season, his .691 winning percentage was ranked 27th nationally amongst NCAA Div. III coaches with at least 10 years on the bench. ... Has learned from of the legends of the game and is passing down that passion for the game. He has 37 former players who are now coaching — 17 in the college ranks and 20 at the high-school level.

As a family man: Grey and his wife, Kelly, live in Moline with their sons Grey, Reid and Luke.

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