They are Dons and Royals.
They are Gauchos and Warriors.
They are Lakers and Nuggets.
They are players and coaches and athletic directors and sports reporters and community leaders.
And much, much more …
And they are the inaugural honorees of the Santa Barbara Basketball Court of Champions.
All 22 “put on a clinic” at The Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort on Sunday — a clinic on class, grace and humility… with some good natured-kidding and lotsa love…. love of the game and for the many who contributed quietly to their individual and phenomenal success.
“How much you’ve meant to me – that’s why I am here,” said Brian Shaw, UCSB Legend of the Dome, Los Angeles Laker World Champion and current Denver Nuggets head coach.
There were funny stories to share and quips to unleash.
Even some true confessions …
“If the Boston Celtics hadn’t drafted you (“BShaw”) with the 24th pick in the 1988 draft, we would have picked you with the 25th, “ offered Honored Guest Jerry West, former Los Angeles Laker, current NBA legend and always NBA logo.
And from “The Godfather of Santa Barbara Basketball” …
“I am the luckiest guy in the world, thanks to basketball and I am forever grateful for what basketball has done for me and my life,” stated Bill Bertka, former SB City Parks and Recreation Director, 33-year Laker assistant coach and overall awesome guy who also helped launch the also much-beloved Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table.
Bertka praised the hoop prowess of Solveig, his wife of 59 years – for the 30 years she ran their Bertka Views – the nation’s biggest collegiate scouting agency.
One by one, it was seemingly just one awe-inspiring moment after another – all taking turns at the largest and most prestigious sports dais this basketball junkie has ever seen!!
With many stories encompassing many years, we were reassured that one thing remains the same …
“The Game is still The Game,” offered honoree Gary Cunningham, a former assistant coach to John Wooden, UCLA head coach, and former UCSB athletic director.
It was truly a night to celebrate ….
A night to shine a bright spotlight on those who have given so much to the game of basketball right here in our own backyard — real and adopted Native Sons and Daughters who have made their marks on many lives in giving back to the youth of our community.
And, for them in return, a rare chance to say thanks.
Like Jamaal. Sal “Mr. Boys & Girls Club” Rodriquez, too. And, not one but two, Fords – Don and little sis, Holly Ford Emerson.
Honoree Carrick DeHart, of UCSB hoop fame, spoke of the critical importance of “unconditional relationships” learned through sport and the positive difference these relationships have had on his life.
Another Gaucho Legend, Erin Alexander Brown shared how basketball and Mark French, her UCSB coach, mentor and evening co-honoree, helped shape her life in a most positive way and gave her skills she taps everyday as a mom … and a fire fighter.
Kirsten Moore, Westmont Women’s Basketball head coach and recent recipient of the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award (According to a USBWA release, “The award stands for inspiration, hope and an undeniable spirit to persevere.”) praised the community for supporting her and her team in Warrior’s march to the 2012-13 NAIA National Championship – the season that started with her husband, Alex’s sudden passing followed quickly with the birth of their daughter, Alexis.
And like her fellow Westmont head hoops coach and co-honoree sitting next to her, John Moore (no relation), she gave thanks to God.
It was even a night to cheer a special milestone for honoree and longtime San Marcos HS Coach and AD Maury Halleck’s — his 84th birthday! (He’s still a few years younger than Bertka, but equally spry!)
Throughout this magical three-hour venue, it was crystal clear that the cozy crowd got an insider’s view on what makes the local sports — and especially basketball scene — soooo special …
Pretty much everything!!
And while this uber-humble first class of honorees may have many connections and descriptors, a la Warriors, Lakers, etc.
More than anything else …
They are forever “Santa Barbara.”
COURT OF CHAMPIONS HONOREES
Erin Alexander Brown
Holly Ford Emerson
* Honored posthumously
Special congrats to the Santa Barbara Basketball Court of Champions Selection Committee – Eric Burkhardt, Holly Ford Emerson, Dave Loveton, Bill Mahoney, Ron Mulder, Curt Pickering & John Zant – for such a fabulous event!!