There are some people in life who demand respect. Chips Giovanine was one of those people.
Even now at age 48, Scott Smith never called Chips Giovanine as Chips. He was still “coach” 30 years after Smith played for him at LaSalle-Peru.
“Just like I wouldn’t call my dad, Gary. I would never call coach, Chips. He was always coach,” Smith said.
Since Giovanine’s passing this week, many folks have had the time to reflect on how the old coach shaped their lives in one or the other.
Smith talked about how he could always pick out that booming voice from the “wee little guy” in any gym.
Bob Sprowls talked about bringing the coach to Buda Western when the consolidated school formed in 1961. He also shared some insights about a golf cart incident while riding with Giovanine one time on a golf course that can now be shared. Bob had advised Chips maybe he shouldn’t try going down a steep hill, which of course Chips did any way. The next thing they know, the cart rolls and tips on top of them.
“He was squealing like a rabbit telling me to get that cart off him,” Bob said with a laugh.
St. Bede coach Mike Kilmartin shared some congratulatory notes he got from Chips over the years, pieces of paper he treats as gold. I had forgotten about Chips’ trademark stationary heading: from the bench of Travel, Travel, 3 seconds, 3 seconds … Giovanine.
Tuesday’s visitation for Chips was a regular college of coaches with the likes of Kilmartin, Bob Prusator, Chuck Rolinski, Lloyd Johnson, Roger Lowe, Ken Bourquin, Steve Sandholm and of course, his son, Grey, the basketball coach at Augustana College. They had all waged cage wars with Chips’ teams over the years and/or admired his coaching talents.
Interesting to hear over the years that despite their teams’ intense rivalry, Chips (Western) and Prusator (Tiskilwa) formed a mutual respect and ran summer camps together.
Kilmartin joked if there’d every be anyone jealous of Chips it was him, because “I went 0-10 against him.”
Many of the stories I heard about Chips were of his frugal ways. Some very funny stories and remembrances there.
Chips and I were more of acquaintances in his latter stages of his career when I first arrived in Bureau County at the start of the 1986-87 basketball season. Since his retirement, we became real good friends with our shared love and interest in basketball and sports in general. I gained a lot local sports history over the years as well updates on his son’s coaching career. He was quite the proud father of both his son and daughter as well as his grandkids.
Over the years if I’d see him at the Metro Center and I had a group of kids in the gym, he’d come down and work with them on their game. He’s worked our summer girls camps at the high school, even this past summer while he was enduring chemo therapy. He just had a passion to share the game of basketball.
We are all better for having Chips in our lives.
Funny thing was when I asked him recently how he got his nickname, Chips. He said he honestly didn’t remember. I’d be interested to find that out if anyone knows.
The Princeton student body had fun with it back in the ‘70s when they had a Chips Ahoy Night when Giovanine’s Rams came to town.
I think the nickname fit him just right. He was chipper about basketball and life.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.