clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

California Golden Blogs Hall of Fame - Pete Newell

2013 Hall of Fame inductee, legendary basketball coach Pete Newell!

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.

Fame_medium