The start of “March Madness”, that time of year when college basketball teams compete for a national championship, is usually marked with people filling out brackets, watching non-stop game coverage on TV and causing a dip in worker productivity that usually lasts until April.
But to the athletes and coaches playing in these games, it’s a shot at greatness. A championship is something that, once achieved, cannot be taken away. You’ll be remembered as a member of a team that won it all and your names will be inscribed as legend. Each conference of the NCAA has a special way of recognizing past players and coaches who made a difference during their collegiate basketball careers. The Pac-10 conference, of which World Financial Group is a proud sponsor, is no different. In fact, WFG recently sponsored the Pac-10 Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony and banquet held March 14 in Los Angeles.
Those inducted were (in alphabetical order of alma mater):
- Lute Olson, the coach of the Arizona Wildcats from 1983-2007. During his coaching career, Coach Olson led the Wildcats to 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, four Final Four appearances and the 1997 NCAA National Championship.
- Royce Young, player for the Arizona State Sun Devils from 1955-58. Royce at one time had the all-time ASU record for free throws made with a total of 362 – this record stood until 2003. While working as a high school coach in the Phoenix high school system, Young won five state championships.
- Nibs Price, the coach of the University of California Golden Bears form 1924-54. His record of 449-294 has yet to be reached by any basketball coach at Berkeley. He also was the head football coach from 1926-30, even reaching the Rose Bowl in 1928.
- Mike Warren, player for the UCLA Bruins from 1964-68. During his junior year as a Bruin, he helped lead his team to a 30-0 season. He also was named an Academic All-American, NCAA Regional and Champion All-Tournament team member and “Most Outstanding Team Member” in 1968. After basketball, he began a successful acting career, appearing most notably as Bobby Hill on “Hill Street Blues”.
- Greg Ballard, player for the Oregon Ducks from 1974-77. Ballard still holds an Oregon record in rebounds (1,114) and is third in scoring (1,829 points). He played ten years in the NBA and has coached in Italy and the NBA. He is currently an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks.
- Paul Valenti, player for the Oregon State Beavers from 1940-42 and coach of the Beavers from 1965-70. His playing career included two Northern Division conference titles and his coaching career included a 1966 Pac-8 Conference title in 1966; the only year UCLA’s John Wooden did not win that honor.
- Gus “The Wizard” Williams, player for the USC Trojans from 1973-75. Williams has held USC records for scoring by a guard (1,308) and assists (362 career and 141 for the 1974 season). He spent 11 seasons in the NBA and now resides in Mount Vernon, NY.
- Jim Pollard, Player for the Stanford University Cardinals from 1940-42. During his 1942 season, he was named All-American on a Stanford squad that won the NCAA Championship. On the court, he was known as “The Kangaroo Kid” for his leaping ability, even being able to dunk from the foul line, which was unheard of at the time. Pollard passed away in 1993.
- Detlef Schrempf, player for the University of Washington Huskies from 1982-85. His career included two MVP awards, three top rebounder accolades and the Wurster Award during his sophomore year as the team’s “top hustler”. He also played 16 seasons in the NBA and has coached for the Seattle Supersonics.
- Isaac Fontaine, player for the Washington State Cougars from 1994-97. He is the only Cougar to score 2,000 points in his career and still holds the record for Cougar scoring with 2,003 points. He was named to two Pac-10 All-Conference First Teams and WSU’s 1997 Pac-10 Medal winner. His pro career has taken him to Italy, the NBA and the NBDL.
Many WFG leaders in the field and at the home office were in attendance, including SVCs Jun & Joyce Dela Cruz, Robin Bundy, Eric Olson, Tuan Le as well as WFG President Jack Linder , Susan and Kent Davies, and about 30 other WFG leaders. According to Jun, “The Hall of Honor banquet was awesome. Jack spoke and gave the inductees a taste of what WFG leadership is all about. We also had the chance to meet Lute Olson, Mike Warren, Jamaal Wilkes, and even Jessica Alba, Warren’s daughter-in-law.”
“Sponsoring the Hall of Honor for the Pac-10 is a huge honor for World Financial Group. Celebrating the past champions fits with our company saying of moving from Dreaming to Doing – all of these Champions have definitely done that,” says Susan Davies, WFG’s Senior Vice President.