John Zant: Honoring Santa Barbara hoop dreamers

UCSB Gaucho legends gather at last year's Santa Barbara Court of Champions event: Carrick Dehart, Brian Shaw and Jerry Pimm. (Randy Weiss Photo)

UCSB Gaucho legends gather at last year’s Santa Barbara Court of Champions event: Carrick Dehart, Brian Shaw and Jerry Pimm. (Randy Weiss Photo)


Award Season Features Basketball Court of Champions and Athletic Round Table’s Hall of Fame

In the coming weeks, the sports awards season reaches a peak with the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table’s 48th annual Hall of Fame fête and the induction of the second class into the Santa Barbara Basketball Court of Champions.

There are impressive and inspiring stories about each honoree at these events. A few individuals receive the rarest of distinctions: Legend. Jerry West, a true NBA legend, was the guest of honor at last year’s inaugural Court of Champions banquet. Among the 22 honorees were two of his old coaching friends, Bill Bertka and Gary Colson, and players like Jamaal Wilkes and Brian Shaw, who won championships in the glory days of the Lakers. West concluded his after-dinner remarks with this endorsement: “Let’s make it bigger and better next year.”

John Zant's column appears each week in the Santa Barbara Independent.


John Zant’s column appears
each week in the
Santa Barbara Independent


The Class of 2015 will be honored on Sunday, May 31, at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. It would be hard to find a more diverse and accomplished group than these 17:

Sam Battistone: This former Santa Barbara High Don became the founder of the New Orleans/Utah Jazz.

Barb Beainy and Cori Close: These teammates were on the 1992 UCSB women’s basketball team that made the first of 12 NCAA Tournament appearances under Coach Mark French (already a Court of Champions member). Close, who led the Gauchos to the Big Dance again in 1993, took the UCLA Bruins to the 2015 Women’s NIT title in her fourth year as head coach.

Tugçe Canitez: The Turkish Olympian helped make Westmont College history by leading the Warrior women to the 2012 NAIA national championship.

Frank Carbajal: In 10 years as the SBCC men’s coach, he won the Western State Conference title four times, compiling a 195-115 record.

Jay Carty: After a brief NBA playing career, this Santa Barbara resident was a mentor to a young Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

Bruce Coldren and Doug Little: Coldren, a star on Dos Pueblos High’s 1971 CIF championship team, went to Oregon and scored 24 points in the Ducks’ memorable 1974 upset of UCLA. Even though his San Marcos High team had a losing record, Little was the CIF 3-A Player of the Year in 1969 and preceded Coldren at Oregon as one of the original “Kamikaze Kids.”

Jim Eyen: The UCSB grad started his career on the SBCC bench next to Carbajal; was a head coach at Dos Pueblos High; worked for Jerry Pimm at UCSB; and in 1989 began an ongoing NBA career as an assistant with the Clippers, Lakers, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, and now with the Lakers again.

Chet Kammerer and Randy Pfund: Kammerer was head coach at Westmont for 17 seasons and gave Pfund his first coaching job. Pfund joined the L.A. Lakers staff and had a brief stint as their head coach. He and Kammerer worked together in the front office of the Miami Heat, drafting Dwyane Wade, a key player in their 2006 title run.

Gerry Karczewski and Jon Korfas: These backcourt mates were on the exciting San Marcos Runnin’ Royals who went 50-2 in their last two seasons (1980-81).

Ron Shelton: Baseball was his best sport, but he played basketball, as well, at Santa Barbara High and Westmont. He featured both sports as a film writer and director, most memorably in Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump.

Gene Snyder: He coached Battistone and Shelton at Santa Barbara High, as well as last year’s inductee Vic Bartolome. Snyder turned around a Dons program that had won just nine of its previous 60 games when he was hired in 1956.

Willie Wilton and Lowell Steward: The head coach and leading scorer on UCSB’s outstanding 1941 team will be honored posthumously. The Gauchos finished fourth in the NAIA tournament at Kansas City, but Steward, an African American, was not allowed to play because of Jim Crow laws. Wilton finished his 16-year career with 205 wins, and Steward became a decorated World War II pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen.

For tickets to the Court of Champions banquet, as well as information about the May 30 high school basketball showcase and silent auction, visit

OUR OWN LEGEND: Kathy Gregory is such a legend in volleyball that she told off other legends. When her L.A. State teammate Billie Jean Moffitt hit some balls out of bounds, Gregory told her, “Stick to tennis.” Billie Jean (Moffitt) King did just that. When she teamed up with NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain in a four-on-four beach volleyball match, Gregory loudly urged Chamberlain, “Pick up your play!”

Known as “Queen of the Beach” for her domination of women’s doubles tournaments — she won a world championship at age 41 in 1986 — Gregory brought the same energy to the UCSB volleyball courts. She coached the Gaucho women’s team for 38 seasons, compiling a record of 882-412 and leading it into 26 consecutive NCAA tournaments in one span.

Gregory entered the International Volleyball Hall of Fame long ago, but she had to retire in 2013 to become eligible to join the coaches in the Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame. She will be inducted on Monday, May 18, in a ceremony at the La Cumbre Country Club.

“I am very lucky to live in Santa Barbara and to have been able to coach for 38 years,” said Gregory, an old-school purist. “It can’t be done any more. It’s harder and more stressful. Winning became a relief, not a joy.”

Also heading into the Round Table Hall will be athletes Erica Menzel-Downing, a multisport star at San Marcos who played for Gregory at UCSB; Shannon Frowiss Phipps, Santa Barbara High basketball standout; Bradlee Van Pelt, who took his talents as a San Marcos quarterback all the way to the NFL; and Kim Wong, a dominant softball pitcher at Dos Pueblos. Dan Cordero, longtime youth sports leader in Carpinteria, will also be honored.

For tickets to Monday’s Hall of Fame ceremony, visit The Round Table will dispense many other awards, including high school and college athletes of the year, at a free assembly Wednesday, May 20, at the Lobero Theatre.

CATHCART MEMORIAL: A celebration of the life of Sam Cathcart will take place May 31 at 1:30 p.m. in Peabody Stadium, where he coached the Santa Barbara Dons football team to many victories. The fête will include a rally for the planned renovation of the almost-century-old stadium