Parents, complete self-certification form for your child. Read More
Padres, complete el formulario de autocertificación para su hijo(a). Leer Más
Ernie KivistoErnie Kivisto

Ernie Kivisto (1923 – 2003)

Head Coach of the
East Aurora Tomcats, 1967-1982

Ernie Kivisto grew up playing basketball in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the days prior to World War II, the son of an immigrant iron worker from Finland. In 1941, he received all-state honors during his senior year at Luther Wright High School in Ironwood. During college, he played for Marquette University in 1943 and 1946, and at the University of Notre Dame in 1944, being moved back and forth while being in the U.S. Marines reserves during the war.

ernie kivisto 1974His coaching career began in the late 1940’s, coaching a semi-professional team for a couple of years, before getting the head coaching position at Miami High School in Miami, Arizona. There, in 1951, Ernie’s team went 27-0 and won the Arizona State Championship, set state and national records, and impressed people so much, a book was written about that season (The Mighty Miami Vandals by Sonny Gomez Pena), and more recently, a theater production has been produced (The Mighty Vandals, by James Garcia).

After that season, Ernie became the head coach at United Township High School in East Moline, Illinois. He had many great teams at East Moline and is an enshrined member of the United Township Hall of Fame. Ernie’s teams won 232 games at East Moline, and his son, Bob, as a freshman, once scored 52 points in a varsity game. 

In 1967, Ernie came to East Aurora High School. In that first season, the Tomcats won the Upstate 8 Conference Championship. The 1969 and 1970 teams added to that glory, again winning conference titles, along with Regional, Sectional, and Super-Sectional Championships. Like his older brother in 1968, Tom Kivisto was named a High School All-American in 1970, once scoring 56 points in a game.

Both of the boys went on to start at the University of Kansas, where Bob led his 1971 Jayhawks to the Final Four, and Tom led the 1974 Kansas men to the Final Four.

Ernie continued to have great teams through the 1970’s and early 1980’s, going downstate three times and winning conference titles in ‘68, ‘70, ‘72, ‘74, ‘78, ‘79, ’80 and ’81. The 1972 team, at the state tournament, set an Illinois record of scoring 346 points in the 4 games downstate. 

In 1982, Coach Kivisto moved to Arizona again and was head coach at Glove High School for six years, winning three conference championships. He then went to Mission, Texas and coached for a couple of different high schools before he retired in 1995.

In his time at East Aurora, Ernie also became known for his summer basketball camps, which drew huge numbers of young players, and for his speaking engagements and clinic instruction. He also is remembered for his mannerisms, humor, and enthusiasm. Those who played for him have many stories of the way Coach Kivisto motivated his teams, worked them hard, and kept them excited for basketball.

Ernie is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame with 544 wins in the State of Illinois. He’s also enshrined in the Ironwood High School Hall of Fame and the Michigan Basketball Hall of Fame. He and his 1951 team are inducted in the Arizona Basketball Hall of Fame, and, of course, he is in the East Aurora High School Hall of Fame.

He and Bob and Tom have all been included in the “Faces in the Crowd” articles in Sports Illustrated magazine. In 1979, Ernie was selected as the National Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Counting all his teams across the country throughout the years, Ernie Kivisto had over 1,000 victories.

Ernie Kivisto (1923 – 2003)

Head Coach of the
East Aurora Tomcats, 1967-1982

Ernie Kivisto grew up playing basketball in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the days prior to World War II, the son of an immigrant iron worker from Finland. In 1941, he received all-state honors during his senior year at Luther Wright High School in Ironwood. During college, he played for Marquette University in 1943 and 1946, and at the University of Notre Dame in 1944, being moved back and forth while being in the U.S. Marines reserves during the war.

ernie kivisto 1974His coaching career began in the late 1940’s, coaching a semi-professional team for a couple of years, before getting the head coaching position at Miami High School in Miami, Arizona. There, in 1951, Ernie’s team went 27-0 and won the Arizona State Championship, set state and national records, and impressed people so much, a book was written about that season (The Mighty Miami Vandals by Sonny Gomez Pena), and more recently, a theater production has been produced (The Mighty Vandals, by James Garcia).

After that season, Ernie became the head coach at United Township High School in East Moline, Illinois. He had many great teams at East Moline and is an enshrined member of the United Township Hall of Fame. Ernie’s teams won 232 games at East Moline, and his son, Bob, as a freshman, once scored 52 points in a varsity game. 

In 1967, Ernie came to East Aurora High School. In that first season, the Tomcats won the Upstate 8 Conference Championship. The 1969 and 1970 teams added to that glory, again winning conference titles, along with Regional, Sectional, and Super-Sectional Championships. Like his older brother in 1968, Tom Kivisto was named a High School All-American in 1970, once scoring 56 points in a game.

Both of the boys went on to start at the University of Kansas, where Bob led his 1971 Jayhawks to the Final Four, and Tom led the 1974 Kansas men to the Final Four.

Ernie continued to have great teams through the 1970’s and early 1980’s, going downstate three times and winning conference titles in ‘68, ‘70, ‘72, ‘74, ‘78, ‘79, ’80 and ’81. The 1972 team, at the state tournament, set an Illinois record of scoring 346 points in the 4 games downstate. 

In 1982, Coach Kivisto moved to Arizona again and was head coach at Glove High School for six years, winning three conference championships. He then went to Mission, Texas and coached for a couple of different high schools before he retired in 1995.

In his time at East Aurora, Ernie also became known for his summer basketball camps, which drew huge numbers of young players, and for his speaking engagements and clinic instruction. He also is remembered for his mannerisms, humor, and enthusiasm. Those who played for him have many stories of the way Coach Kivisto motivated his teams, worked them hard, and kept them excited for basketball.

Ernie is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame with 544 wins in the State of Illinois. He’s also enshrined in the Ironwood High School Hall of Fame and the Michigan Basketball Hall of Fame. He and his 1951 team are inducted in the Arizona Basketball Hall of Fame, and, of course, he is in the East Aurora High School Hall of Fame.

He and Bob and Tom have all been included in the “Faces in the Crowd” articles in Sports Illustrated magazine. In 1979, Ernie was selected as the National Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. Counting all his teams across the country throughout the years, Ernie Kivisto had over 1,000 victories.