Jan. 6, 2009
With the 42nd annual Cable Car Classic in the books, one can't forget one of its founders for his tireless work. Much like the heart that sustains people without seeking acknowledgement, Art Santo Domingo continues to be the unsung hero of the Cable Car Classic. However, that does not mean those connected to the program take for granted what Santo Domingo has given Santa Clara for more than 42 years.
Santa Clara won the school's 15th title on Dec. 30, 2008 with an exciting 89-88 win over UTEP, with senior center John Bryant collecting MVP honors; and Ben Dowdell and Kevin Foster named to the All-Tournament team. It was the first overtime championship final.
"I love Art to death," says Bronco Head Coach Kerry Keating. "There's no one like him and I doubt if there will ever be anyone like him. He's a very kind-hearted and great person. Strip down all the things he does for us and he's just a bottom-line great person. I'm glad we have him in our family and privileged to have him around for who he is."
It was Santo Domingo's dream that came to fruition in 1967. He and Harry Jupiter of the San Francisco Examiner longed for an event that would make the Bay Area a destination for high-profile teams from around the country--now the nation's longest-running holiday tournament. Over the years, stars like Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Ralph Sampson, John Lucas, Phil Chenier and Mugsy Bogues played in the tournament while Santa Clara has boasted the likes of Awtrey, Rambis, the Ogdens, Keeling and Nash.
Following wins over Houston and USF in 1968, Bud Ogden was the first Bronco to win the tournament MVP. Ogden has attended all but two Cable Car Classics and is grateful the program has a friend like Santo Domingo.
"Art is a true fan, a great guy, a friend of basketball and a friend of Santa Clara. It amazes me how he's been able to keep the Cable Car going for so many years," said Ogden. "Where other tournaments have died and gone by the wayside--Art continues to breathe life into it. I think he's done a masterful job with a great tradition here at Santa Clara...I thank him every time I see him about the Cable Car."
While some universities view hosting a tournament as a chance to get a couple easy wins leading to an automatic trophy hoist, Santa Clara embraces an annual challenge with the Cable Car Classic--something Keating relishes.
"That's what we want for our schedule," says Keating. "We want a competitive schedule for our guys to be able to develop our program to be able to eventually play in the post-season. Those two games I know are always going to be tough ones."
"It started going all the way back with the great people I met like Dick Garibaldi, Carroll Williams, Pat Malley, Andy Locatelli and Dick Davey....They were never afraid to play the big teams. That was one of the big attractions where Santa Clara would play the best teams we could find," said Santo Domingo. "They wouldn't shy away from them where most schools want to load up their tournaments with patsies or cupcakes--as Al McGuire used to say. We always respected them for that and they've been a great bunch of people to work with."
To secure the first field in 1967, Santo Domingo flew back to Washington, D.C., making the most of his networking contacts in reaching agreements with Loyola (IL), Western Kentucky and USF. Little did he know at the time the basketball tournament would become the second longest relationship of his life--surpassed only by his 44-year marriage to his wife Fran.
"Once we got that one going, it was a little easier," Santo Domingo said. "People knew the name a little bit and what you were talking about. We started at the Civic Auditorium (San Francisco) and didn't really draw that well but came back for the second one. Now, we're here for the 42nd one."
In 30 of the Classic's 41 years, the Classic has featured a team that would receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament just months later. Ten of the years it has featured multiple teams who would later advance to the NCAA. The 1995 Cable Car Classic proved to be one of the strongest fields with all four teams advancing to the 1996 NCAA Tournament in March. Penn State won the Cable Car Classic with Georgia Tech, Santa Clara and Bradley also making the post-season. Georgia Tech won the ACC title that year as well.
Those participating in past Cable Car Classic read like a who's who in college basketball history. From the Santa Clara teams of the 1960's and `70's that featured the talents of Bud Ogden, Dennis Awtrey and Kurt Rambis, and the USF squads, led by Kevin Restani, Winford Boynes and Bill Cartwright to traditional basketball powers such as Dean Smith's North Carolina Tar Heels featuring Michael Jordan and James Worthy, and the Ralph Sampson-led Virginia Cavaliers to the `90s with Stephen Marbury of Georgia Tech to this century's teams, including one of Air Force's best-ever teams in 2006.
"We have also had a lot of the elite coaches," said Santo Domingo. "Bobby Knight and then Mike Krzyzewski with Army, Frank McGuire with South Carolina, Jud Heathcote with Michigan State, Gene Keady with Purdue, Bobby Cremins of Georgia Tech, Hugh Durham with Florida State, Mike Montgomery with Stanford, Phil Martelli with St. Joe's, Dean Smith with North Carolina and Terry Holland with Virginia. Many of those coaches will find their way into the Basketball Hall of Fame."
Exempt tournaments in places like Alaska and Hawaii have been the demise of other university hosted events and big-name schools opt for revenue-generating home games rather than play two games on the road. In that sense, Santo Domingo says it's harder to keep the event going than it was to start. However, the Cable Car continues to be an annual tradition--a gesture of his loyalty and commitment.
"Right now, it means I'm still here," says Santo Domingo. "I'm 70 years old and hopefully going strong for awhile. I'm proud of it. It's been tough to get teams but I'm a fan of longevity and being consistent. Hopefully, this is something that epitomizes consistency and longevity."
Story by Dave Lewis