Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Coach Giovanine retires with a lasting legacy

Coach Giovanine during a CCIW game in 2018. Photo by Kevin Donovan

On Tuesday, May 5, head coach of the men’s basketball team Grey Giovanine shocked the Augustana community by announcing his retirement.
After 21 years of leading the Vikings, Giovanine decided it was time to move on. As the winningest coach in Augustana men’s basketball history, Giovanine leaves a lasting legacy of 20 consecutive winning seasons, 20 consecutive CCIW winning seasons, 10 CCIW Championship titles and a multitude of NCAA Playoff wins. 
Within 72 hours of his retirement announcement, Giovanine heard from nearly 500 people, including past players and coworkers. He was positively overwhelmed with how everyone reached out to wish him the best.
“Each and every one meant the world to me,” Giovanine said. “I take none of this for granted. I feel very appreciative and fortunate to have come to Augustana when I did and have the kind of experience over the last few decades.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Giovanine had a lot of time to reflect on his career and his future. He figured that this would be a fitting time to retire since so much of the world is changing right now. 
Giovanine’s battle with prostate cancer in 2018-2019 also influenced his decision. That process took a toll on his body and endurance. As an extremely animated character on the court sidelines, his new energy levels were difficult for him to adjust to.
Coach G, as he was known in the basketball community, arrived each night in the Carver Center with an electricity rarely matched by his opponents. His infamous suit coat toss would cause an uproar in the audience as this action typically suggested an intense moment in a game. His players listened and took his advice, and more often than not, his tips would turn out effective in the long run.
Looking at Giovanine’s legacy at Augustana requires more than just counting trophies and titles. The Vikings’ win/loss record was 433-150 during his time as coach, but his impact on the program environment overall is what many agreed he would most be remembered for.
Throughout Giovanine’s 21 years of creating relationships, he continued to stay in touch with the majority of players, staff and other faculty. One recent Augustana graduate, Nolan Ebel, speaks often to his former coach for basketball advice while he pursues the sport professionally in Spain. 
Ebel sees many of the lessons Giovanine taught play out in his professional and personal lives. In their coach/player relationship, they bonded on a common goal to do whatever it takes to win. Their success can easily be shown by the 104-21 record the Vikings posted during Ebel’s time on campus. He continues to be forever grateful for Giovanine’s guidance.
“It’s a legacy that’s going to be very hard to live up to. He’s the embodiment of Augustana basketball,” Ebel said. “Just looking at all the rings and trophies, and all I can think about is him. He built the program, he’s the reason that we were able to bring in good players. He demanded greatness out of us everyday, even on our best day.”
It’s not just Ebel who sees Giovanine’s impact in his daily life. Giovanine constantly heard similar stories from various past players.
“One of the things that’s been consistent that I keep hearing from is that so many of the lessons [the players] learned while they were in our program have continued to serve them well as their lives have unfolded,” Giovanine said. “Nothing can be more rewarding than hearing that from guys when they’ve moved on.”
Junior Jack Jelen has already noticed an influence on his life from Coach Giovanine, although only being led by him for three years.
Watching [Giovanine] and playing for him, I really saw how invested he was into the things he cared about,” Jelen said. “That’s something I try to do in my own life, in basketball and whatever else I am doing.”
Giovanine kept good relationships with many people in the Augustana community. Dave Wrath, who is the associate director of athletics/media and alumni relations, admired how personable and generous Giovanine was with the media. He spoke with the media as often as he could, even making sure he called on the bus ride home from away games. 
Wrath’s job is to promote Augustana sports, and he believes Giovanine represented Augustana sports in the best way possible no matter what the game outcome.
“He was just as gracious and accommodating in losses,” Wrath said. “There’s an awful lot of good winners out there. There aren’t an awful lot of professional, good losers.”
Giovanine’s fellow Assistant Coach Tom Jessee spoke with the current basketball team about how appreciative he is for Giovanine’s leadership. 
I told [the team] how indebted [I am] to Coach G. for everything he has done for my family and me and the incredible journey that he has allowed me to go on with him and [that I was] was forever grateful,” Jessee said.
Jessee also recalled the first time he met Giovanine 21 years ago. Looking back, he realizes how Giovanine’s determination led him to his successful run.
“I remember the first meeting he had with me after he was named head coach at Augustana. He very clearly laid out to me what his plans were for the program. Everything pretty much unfolded just as he described it would, which is absolutely amazing,” Jessee said.
And, just as Giovanine predicted, his career would go down as one of the best in Augustana history. But it wasn’t the end results that always mattered the most for Giovanine. 
“I hope that people feel like I really gave my best,” Giovanine said. “I really tried to invest in each and every player, each and every team, and each and every season. I think that’s the most that you can do: give all that you have.”
Giovanine will be remembered at Augustana for more than his wins, tournaments or championships. Vikings admire Giovanine for his dedicated service to Augustana basketball and the Augustana community. The relationships he built and kept throughout his 21 years here will last a lifetime. 
Featured image: Coach Giovanine during a CCIW game in 2018. Photo by Kevin Donovan

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Coach Giovanine retires with a lasting legacy