May 11, 2004
While being honored at last week's Cable Car Classic golf event at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, former Michigan State head coach Jud Heathcote, who won a national title with Magic Johnson in 1979, paid tribute to Art Santo Domingo, calling him "The best friend a guy could have and the best guy a friend could have."
Since 1967 Santo Domingo has been the founder and director of the Cable Car Classic, the longest running holiday basketball event in the country. He and Harry Jupiter of the San Francisco Examiner wanted the Bay Area to have an event where college hoops programs from around the country could play and over the years there have been many stars to appear in the event. Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Ralph Sampson, John Lucas, Phil Chenier and Mugsy Bogues were some of the visitors while Santa Clara has boasted the likes of Awtrey, Rambis, the Ogdens, Keeling and Nash.
However, the tournament is only a small reason Santo Domingo is loved by the program; he's a friend. Those connected to the university should never take for granted how lucky they are to have a supporter like him. Like the heart that sustains us without much acknowledgement so is Santo Domingo.
"He has so many qualities you appreciate in somebody. Humility is one of them and loyalty is surely another," says Santa Clara Head Coach Dick Davey. "He is tremendously loyal to all the coaches. Once they come to his event they are always invited. As long as they don't turn on him or do something in a negative manner he's always there for them."
Art can been seen scoring an A's or Giants game, keeping stats for the Warriors and occasionally even a Bronco game. While he's identified in college sports with Santa Clara, he's become attached to other programs, as well.
Adds Davey: "If BYU is out here and they're playing San Jose State, he'll go watch 'em play so he can see (head coach) Steve Cleveland. When Harrick was at UCLA and they were playing at Cal, he might go over there and watch their game. He's followed Riley Wallace's Hawaii teams back to the Minnesota and Las Vegas when they were there. He's loyal to the people that have been loyal to him."
The aforementioned coaches were hacking up the course last week along with former coaches Johnny Orr from Michigan and Iowa State and Don Monson of Idaho along with current coaches Hugh Durham of Jacksonville, Riley Wallace of Hawaii, Bruce Pearl of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Michael Holton of Portland, Brad Holland of San Diego, Randy Bennett of Saint Mary's and Steve Aggers of LMU, just to name a few. Also, former players like Awtrey, Steve Kenilvort and Santa Clara's first elected mayor Gary Gillmor participated and represented a small portion of the room that gave Santo Domingo a standing ovation during the banquet portion of the event to raise money for Big Brothers-Big Sisters, a charity that Art has been involved with for many years. To put on an event like this is a pricey proposition: flying coaches into town, hotels and golf at the Olympic Club, Monterey Peninsula and Pasatiempo. Those checks are written by Santo Domingo and it's about time he's recognized for his generosity. He'd be embarrassed by the recognition; that's why I'm writing this while he's out of town (I'll deal with the wrath later).
As an ultimate fan, Art will not only attend all home and some glamour away games, he'll go to them all. Believe me, it's a special fan that WANTS to go to Bozeman, Montana or Pocatello, Idaho.
After noting that my quintet (assistant coaches Sam Scuilli and Lloyd Pierce, women's Head Coach Michelle Bento and storyteller extraordinaire Andy Locatelli since I'm not going down alone for the performance of the team) had the worst score of all the teams in the "scramble" format, a rival WCC coach tried to make me feel better by saying I was lucky, despite a horrible golf game, to have a guy in my corner like Art because "we don't have one for our program. Where can I find a guy like that?"
"There aren't many programs that really do have a guy like that," says Davey. "It's not for personal gain at all. He's doing it for a charity and his love for athletics. He loves Santa Clara and Santa Clara athletics, but he loves the Giants, Stanford, the Oakland A's, the Warriors. He's a sports fan and a sports fan that does not need to be in the limelight to enjoy doing things. Being in the spotlight is something that Art is not interested in. He's interested in promoting sports."
A quick aside... On one of the last few holes, Scuilli sprayed his second shot into the woods and explained the miscue to the team, "That, guys, was just pure arrogance. I didn't humble myself to the game and that's what happens." In the cart I told Sam that I humbled myself to the game without a tinge of arrogance and still sprayed my shot. At that point, the assistant coach responded with an irritated, "That's your problem!"
In driving away that night, negotiating northbound Hwy 17, I replayed many of my errant drives, a couple witnessed by Art's beautiful wife Fran. As painful as my game was, I know I'll be back for more next year. Because of being associated with Santo Domingo each double bogey is a blessing...and there were plenty of those.