LAS VEGAS – From witty to wistful, the 10 new members of the West Coast Conference’s Hall of Honor Class of 2015 expressed gratitude for their inductions in different ways during a Saturday morning brunch at the Orleans Hotel.
Best line of the event was by former Pacific volleyball star Elaina Oden, who played when Pacific was not a member of the WCC.
“I love this conference, even though I never played a day in it,” she cracked.
An audience of about 300 laughed along with her. Retired Portland women’s basketball coach Jim Sollars drew some laughs for his self-deprecating remarks at the dais. The man was clearly comfortable in front of a microphone.
“When I was told I had been selected, my first thought was, `Do they think I’m going to die?’ `’
Noting that he coached more than 1,100 games in his career, Sollars said, “I remember 10 great wins and 10 horrible losses. The other 1,100 are a blur, honestly.”
Sollars thanked his wife, Pam, for keeping house and home together during the hundreds of times he was on the road.
“Family crises seemed to take place when I was on the road,” he said. “The family dog died. My son got his teeth knocked out in a basketball game. The roof leaking during a three-day rainstorm. Somehow my wife handled it all.”
Another funny man was former San Diego basketball star Scott Thompson, who at 7-feet towered over the rest of the Hall of Honor Class.
“I remember winning brought better-looking girls and better food. That was my motivation,” he said.
Gonzaga’s 2015 representative to the Hall, former Major League Baseball player Jason Bay, gave a sincere nod to his alma mater for doing much more than giving him an opportunity to play college baseball.
“I think I have a little different perspective on something like this,” Bay said. “I came out of a small town in Canada. Without college athletics, I wouldn’t be here. I’m the quintessential example of what college can do for a person. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Gonzaga community. I’d like to thank Gonzaga for giving me that opportunity.”
Bay also noted that he met his future wife at Gonzaga and that they have three children that he is able to spend quality time with now that he is retired from baseball at 36.
Rick Adelman is known more for winning more than 1,000 NBA games and twice taking the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals but in his playing days at Loyola Marymount he reached 1,000 points and averaged more than 20 points per game.
“I had a great experience at Loyola. When I was there it was `Loyola.’ `Marymount’ came later. It was the only school that offered me a scholarship.”
Now that he is retired, Adelman is able to enjoy the WCC Tournament as a fan. “This is a great tournament, just a great atmosphere,” he said.
The oldest inductee to the Hall, the soon-to-be-80 Odell Johnson, was an outstanding basketball player in his day for Saint Mary’s and later enjoyed a long and rewarding career as an educator and administrator. As a senior for the Gaels in 1956-57 he averaged 15.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as a 6-2 ½ guard.
“I was not aware they kept records that went back that far,” he quipped.
Noting that as a player he had to guard K.C. Jones of San Francisco and Elgin Baylor of Seattle, Johnson said matter-of-factly, “That was a tough assignment.”
Talking about the scope of his life and pointing out the many family members and friends in attendance at the brunch, Johnson said, “My life has been a fairytale dream. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Bud Ogden was an All-American basketball player for Santa Clara in 1969 but he preferred to speak about the importance of his teammates in making the Broncos a powerhouse during his time on campus.
“The synergistic term `The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ comes to mind,” Ogden said.
Ogden took great pleasure that his 11-year-old daughter, Sydney, was with him for the HOH ceremony, as much to show her that her old man was something special back in the day, decades before she was born.
When it was his turn to receive his Hall of Honor plaque, WCC lifer Jim Brovelli (San Francisco player, San Francisco coach, San Diego coach, Portland assistant) noted that one of the still photos on the video board showed him elevating for a jump shot.
“I bet you thought your old coach never had those hops,” he said to his former players in attendance, mainly Thompson.
As a coach, Brovelli was in charge of San Diego when it transitioned from Division II to Div. I and later was in charge when USF resumed its basketball program after a three-year hiatus.
“To be asked to bring that program back was an honor,” Brovelli said. “It was challenging but also rewarding.”
Former Pepperdine basketball star Dane Suttle choked up at the mic when he spoke with a father’s pride how his son, Dane Jr., not only played for Pepperdine but graduated as well.
“Bear with me, I’m real emotional right now,” Suttle said.
Showing how important the Hall of Honor ceremony was to her, former BYU soccer player Aleisha Cramer Rose, now an assistant coach at her alma mater, pointed out that as she was speaking, the Cougars were playing UNLV in Las Vegas. It was only a spring non-conference game, she said.
“BYU changed my life,” she said. “I met some of my best friends on my soccer team. I met my husband, so that worked out great.”
John Crumpackerspent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.