Jan. 13, 2007
Russ Vrankovich spent four years on the Mission Campus from 1960-64, three as a varsity basketball player. He helped the team win 41 games under head coaches Bob Feerick and Dick Garibaldi in those three seasons. As a senior, Vrankovich had one of the greatest seasons in school history, averaging 22.5 points per game, a scoring average that ranks first in Santa Clara history for a single season. The Oakland, Calif. native was later elected to the Santa Clara Athletic Hall of Fame. He was back on campus on Jan. 6 for Men's Basketball Alumni Day and he stopped for a chat with SantaClaraBroncos.com.
How often do you make it back to campus?
I get back as much as I can. I was here last spring for Leroy Jackson's induction into the Hall of Fame. That was a great event. I get back here when I can but it was not always easy when I had kids playing sports. One of my sons actually ended up playing baseball at Saint Mary's.
What are you up to now?
I was an insurance broker for a number of years, but now I am retired. I still play golf with some of my old friends and teammates from Santa Clara. I live in Danville now.
Do you follow the current Broncos?
I come to about two games a year and I watch every game that they play on television so I definitely know what is going on. I hope they keep playing well this year and finish well in the conference.
How does it feel when you look back at the school record books and you still hold the all time record for points per game in a season (22.5)?
That is pretty cool especially because they did not have the three-point shot back then. It was fun to play at Santa Clara. I was a little lucky that year because our team was not very good so I got a lot of chances to score. Bob Garibaldi was our best player the year before and he left to play baseball. Once he left it just seemed like the ball came to me a lot that year.
How did your scoring average jump so much from your junior to senior years?
It was pretty amazing actually. The summer before my senior year was the only summer that I did not work out much. I just felt good going into that year though and the game seemed to slow down for me. As a junior I did not start so I got more minutes as a senior. That helped me score more.
What was it like playing for a coach like Dick Garibaldi?
He was great. He was a bit of a screamer and I always loved playing for screamers. He is such a good guy. We have remained friends for years and we have played a lot of golf over the years. I have spent weekends with him at his place in Santa Cruz. He was the reason that I came here. When I came here for visits, he was such a good guy and he made me feel comfortable here. Santa Clara was a great place for me.
What do you think of the facilities at Santa Clara now?
These guys have a great gym to play. We did not have much back then and we had to play our games in the San Jose Civic Auditorium. The rims were really tight back then too so you had to make sure that did not hit the rim at all.
What is the biggest difference between the game when you played and the game now?
There was no three-pointer back then so guys used to go to the basket more. Also, I think that teams were better at getting the ball inside. It was amazing at Santa Clara when Dennis Awtrey and the Ogdens (Bud and Ralph) played because of the way that they moved the ball around. They would make six-foot passes around the basket and get one of them an easy shot. They were fun to watch.
What is your best memory about Dick Garibaldi?
When I was a senior I was a bit of a troublemaker so Dick made me room with him so that I would stay out of trouble. At a tournament in Portland, we did not make the final so I went over to a friend's house for dinner instead of going to the final game. It turned out that I made the All-Tournament team so Joe Mahar had to accept the trophy for me. Dick had to bring the trophy back for me. When I got back to our room, he threw the trophy at me because I had missed the presentation.
What stands out in your mind about playing basketball at Santa Clara?
I loved going on the road trips with the team and I loved the practices. I am guy who loved to be at practice so I miss that. Overall though just being a part of the team was great. It was a fun experience and I made so many great friends on those teams. It really impresses me that so many of the guys from the Santa Clara basketball teams have gone on to be successful in whatever they do.