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By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist | @CrumpackerOnWCC
Allow me to use this cyber space on the conference web site to introduce myself to those not familiar with my name or my work:
I'm John Crumpacker, and for 36-plus years I was a sportswriter for the one and only San Francisco Examiner and later the San Francisco Chronicle. In that time I had the good fortune to cover 10 Olympic Games, Summer and Winter, as well as seven Final Fours, six Super Bowls and a whole bunch of other stuff great and small.
Those years are in my rearview mirror now. On the horizon is a new role, that of basketball beat writer/columnist for the West Coast Conference's web site, WCCsports.com. I am grateful to WCC commissioner Lynn Holzman, senior director of communications Ryan McCrary and associate commissioner Jeff Tourial for the opportunity they are giving me.
My marching orders (although I'd prefer to stroll and sometimes saunter) are to tell the story of West Coast Conference basketball beyond points, rebounds, assists and sprained ankles. For someone who considers himself a storyteller and a wordsmith, this is as close to perfect as it gets for me.
I started out a week ago writing about free-throw marksman Johnny Dee of the University of San Diego and how he started out shooting hoops as a kid on a rim perched at the top of an uphill driveway at his family's home in suburban San Diego County.
I'll check in next week with the uplifting story of Pacific's Gena Johnson and her remarkable recovery from a horrific automobile accident in June of 2013. Sixteen months of blood, sweat and tears later, she's back with her teammates for her senior year. She'll be someone to keep track of, and root for, throughout the season.
Although I spent the bulk of my newspaper career covering the San Francisco 49ers and Cal athletics, I do have a history with the WCC. As a young reporter I covered USF in its final season as a nationally-ranked team in 1981-82 before various misdeeds compelled the university to shut down the program for three years.
Georgia and Dominique Wilkins came to Memorial Gym for a game that season, an event that necessitated the construction of a plywood platform in the bleachers to accommodate TV cameras for this nationally televised game on CBS. Heck of a game, too, won by the Dons 92-84 over 16th-ranked Georgia. USF rose to as high as No. 6 nationally that fateful season.
I was on the job as well in 1985-86 when the Dons pumped air into those deflated basketballs and started back up under coach and alum Jim Brovelli, one of my favorite coaches to cover.
Over the years I've seen my share of games at St. Mary's and Santa Clara and I've also been on road trips to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. One of the best games I ever covered was a first-round NIT contest between Santa Clara and Fresno State on March 14, 1985. It went to three overtimes, with the Bulldogs winning at home 79-76 in a game both teams deserved to win.
Another Santa Clara game stands out for different reasons. On March 18, 1993 the 15th-seed Broncos upset No. 2 seed Arizona 64-61 in an NCAA tournament game in Salt Lake City. The next day I remember telling coach Dick Davey, another all-time favorite of mine, how popular Santa Clara's win was along press row.
Davey was an assistant coach at Cal when I was a student at Berkeley about 1,000 years ago. I was struck by his passion for the game and the intensity he displayed on the bench. He'd rip off his suit jacket, slap his hands on the court, his face red as a rose and his hair flying in all directions, all the while sweating like a condemned man. And that was just during player introductions. He must have had frightful dry cleaning bills in those days. Hope you're enjoying retirement, Dick. You've earned it.
Fast-forward 30 years, I'm looking forward to telling the story of WCC basketball in 2014-15. I'll see all 10 teams during the course of the season and hope to find the kind of stories I'll remember for the next 30 years.
See you around campus.
John Crumpacker spent 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.