From now until the start of the 2015 West Coast Conference Basketball Championships, WCC columnist John Crumpacker will be profiling the WCC Hall of Honor Class of 2015. This week, Crumpacker examines the intertwined careers of Jim Brovelli (San Francisco), Dane Suttle (Pepperdine) and Scott Thompson (San Diego). This is the final release in the series. For previous stories, click the Complete Crumpacker Archive link at the top of the page.
When it was pointed out to Jim Brovelli that his induction into the West Coast Conference's 2015 Hall of Honor class was richly based on his experience as a player at San Francisco and later a coach at San Diego and then his alma mater, he made a correction by addition.
"My first college coaching job was two years at Portland under Jack Avina,'' Brovelli said. "USF was my third job in the conference. I have a lot of blood and guts in the league.''
Brovelli, 72, is unique among this year's Hall of Honor class in that he was responsible for starting up two Division I basketball programs in the conference, with an asterisk.
"It's a huge honor,'' Brovelli said. "I'm just so proud and humble to be included on this great list of who they have inducted. It's a privilege.''
His first head coaching job was at San Diego, a Div. II program at the time of his arrival in 1973. Six years later, he convinced administrators at USD that the school needed to make the move to Div. I in the WCC with other likeminded colleges.
"I grew up in a conference where these schools fit,'' said Brovelli, who made his pitch to USD Vice President Tom Burke. "I told him it will help enrollment. It will get notoriety for the school. The students you recruit will be from the same pool at Loyola Marymount. He said, `Why don't you win some games and get back to me?'
"The next year we won 23 games and made the (D-II) Elite 8. At the end of the year I knocked on the door and said, `Me again.' He said, `I got it.' "
San Diego joined the WCC in 1979 and by 1984, the Toreros had won the conference championship and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time with such players as 7-footer Scott Thompson, forward Mike Whitmarsh (who later won an Olympic silver medal in beach volleyball) and a guard who would go on to become an NBA coach, Eric Musselman.
Thompson joins Brovelli in this year's Hall of Honor class for his sterling play over four years at USD, when he helped the school to two conference championships (1984, '87) and two appearances in the NCAA tourney. As a senior in 1986-87 Thompson helped the Toreros post a school-best 24-6 record while averaging 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
"It's an honor to be included,'' said Thompson, 50, who has spent half his life working in Portland for AAA. "It's a fun time to celebrate. We had some good teams when I was there.''
Thompson was recruited by Brovelli out of Mesa Verde High School in Citrus Heights north of Sacramento and played for him as a freshman in 1983-84. Not that he was worried or anything, but Brovelli had his nephew, Charley Malet, room with Thompson his freshman year.
"I don't remember any of the (stats). I remember the relationships and how we had a lot of fun,'' Thompson said. "We had good team chemistry all four years. You carry those relationships with you the rest of your life.''
After the season, Brovelli answered the siren call of his native San Francisco and became USF's coach at a pivotal time in school history when the Dons resumed playing Div. I basketball after a three-year hiatus. San Diego is never far from his mind, however.
"We had no facility'' at San Diego, Brovelli said. "We played on campus in the old Catholic school gym with a stage on the side. By the fifth year we won the championship of the WCAC. It was the WCAC then. The memories I had at San Diego will be treasured for a lifetime. What makes great jobs are great people. The relationships I had at USD are there for life.''
At San Diego, Thompson played against, and Brovelli coached against, a player who will join them at this year's Hall of Honor ceremony on Saturday at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, former high-scoring Pepperdine guard Dane Suttle.
During his four years in Malibu from 1979-83, Suttle was a consistent scorer who left school as Pepperdine's all-time leader in points, assists, steals and games played. Only one mark, his 1,701 career points, remains atop the school's record books. As a senior in 1982-83 he averaged 23.4 points per game, a figure that would have led the WCC in 2014-15, for comparative purposes.
"It was a conference with talented players,'' Suttle, now 53, recalled of his playing days. "My best memories was always the competition, being able to go to a beautiful campus and compete against great players and try to win games.''
As a senior, Suttle scored 41 points against Loyola Marymount in a 101-92 victory for Pepperdine, a total that still ranks among the top five in school history. Playing for coach Jim Harrick, Suttle and the Waves compiled a record of 75-39 and played in the postseason three times, including the NCAA tourney in his junior and senior seasons.
"He played on some great teams,'' Brovelli said of facing Suttle and Pepperdine when he was at USD. "How do you defend a great scorer? He was a great leader. In this league you win with guards and he was one of those great guards in the league.''
These days, Suttle is working as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the men's and women's basketball teams at Cal State Northridge. He's done some coaching on the high school, college and semi-pro level as well as worked as a personal coach to a number of current and former NBA players. He traveled with the French National Team in 2004 that included current San Antonio Spur Tony Parker.
What Suttle would like to do more than anything else is become a college head coach, which is out of reach at the moment because of his job at Northridge.
"I can't touch a basketball because of the job description,'' he said. "I can't demonstrate anything like shooting or rebounding. I'm in great shape, though. I've been taking advantage of the weight room.''
He can talk all the basketball he wants, though, and Suttle figures to do a lot of that while attending the Hall of Honor ceremony and watching his Waves play in the tournament. While in Las Vegas, Suttle said he hopes to meet WCC Commissioner Lynn Holzman.
"It's always good to meet the commissioner of the league,'' he said. "It's a good thing to come back and be able to network, let them know what life is all about for me. My biggest thing is in going to Las Vegas, be appreciative, be humble and try to represent the WCC as it moves forward.''
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.