CGB Hall of Fame Semifinal: (1)Jahvid Best v. (4)Pete Newell

Jeff Zelevansky

Our next semifinal of the weekend comes out of the Pete Newell Region and features Jahvid Best taking on the man himself, Pete Newell. Jahvid took out Jolene Henderson to get here while Pete easily advanced over Ashley Walker. We'll take a closer look at both of them and then you can cast your vote to decide who moves on. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and voting will end Friday at noon. GO BEARS!

(1)Jahvid Best

Here are some thoughts from the CGB Remembering the Seniors post:

Best seems to always have one mode: Fast. He ran fast. He cut fast. He caught fast. He leapt fast. He even interviewed fast. He's the prototypical Internet-generation athlete!

He was a one man instrument of warfare, like that sniper in Saving Private Ryan. In a blink of an eye, he took teams out of games. We can count the games, the names, the teams he left burning on the turf in his wake. CSU '08. Wazzu '08. Furd '08. Washington '08. Miami '08. Maryland '09. Minnesota '09. UCLA '09. Opposing fans probably felt a little helpless once the Jet found the seams and broke loose--it was hardly a fair fight once Xs and Os crumbled into the 100 m dash.

I don't think I've ever seen a football player take over a football game by himself the way Jahvid did with the liabilities he had to nurse from everyone. He was hampered with a generally weak offensive line (especially in the interior) and a terribly hamstrung quarterback situation. Even Desean had a fairly accurate Longshore throwing to him much of his career. Best had to win many games on his own (and when I say on his own, he generated around 70 to 80% of their meaningful offense, sometimes even more). The only Bear who had to burden that much of the load in modern times was probably Deltha, and those teams still stunk. One player can't make a team great; it's to Jahvid's credit that he kept the offense running alright with minimal help (Ta'ufo'ou, Mack and Malele in '08, and mmmaybe Summers-Gavin in '09).

(4)Pete Newell

NorCalNick gives up the scoop on Coach Newell:

What I know about Pete Newell is likely very similar to what you know about him. He’s a legendary head coach, universally regarded as one of the great innovators. Bob Knight thinks he’s the greatest. John Wooden couldn’t take over the conference until he left. He won a national title and his team took down Oscar Robertson. He won an Olympic medal with Oscar Roberson. He became known as a big man guru and introduced the reverse action offense. Perhaps most importantly, the iconic picture of him nervously chewing a towel doubles as an iconic visual metaphor for Cal fans.

Unfortunately, that picture hints at a problem: Newell retired from coaching at the age of 45 due to stress, leading to a gigantic ‘what-if.’ It’s hardly unusual for respected coaches to keep going well into their 60s or 70s. If Newell had stayed active, would Cal basketball have fallen into a 50 year wilderness of only occasional relevancy? Would John Wooden be the same Wooden? Perhaps Cal would be the west coast blue blood.

In any case, Newell compiled a record of 119-44 while at Cal, then became Cal’s athletic director until 1968. I can’t begin to vouch for his abilities as an administrator, although I doubt anybody would look back at the 60s as a golden era for Cal sports. Considering the climate on campus at the time, perhaps there wasn’t much anybody could do.

If the CGB hall of fame were identical to the Cal hall of fame, Pete Newell would be a charter member as perhaps the best (and most influential) coach in school history, in any sport. Alas, few if any of us were able to witness Newell’s teams in action. Will his legendary reputation be enough to earn him your vote?

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