Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Legend Comes Home

The UC Davis men's water polo team reported for the fall late last week, continuing a tough summer of workouts under new head coach Daniel Leyson (the Aggies may practice on a more limited basis prior to the reporting date). As of the start of this post, the players jumped into the waters of Schaal Aquatics Center for their 10th practice since Thursday. Oh the joys of double days.

Leyson, as Mike Robles summarized in the official May 22 announcement, brings enormous credentials as a coach and a player. He also brought with him one of the true legends of the sport, and a former Aggie: Dante Dettamanti, who has returned to his alma mater to serve as a volunteer assistant on Leyson's staff.

A two-sport All-Far Western Conference performer at UC Davis in the 1960s, Dettamanti enjoyed an outstanding 25-year career at the helm of the Stanford men's water polo program, plus successful stints at Occidental and UC Santa Barbara. His overall coaching record: 666-209-6. At the Farm, he went 570-148-6, guiding the Cardinal to eight NCAA titles (plus six second-place finishes) and garnering six national Coach of the Year awards.

That's right. Eight NCAA titles.

For a little reference, that matches the total won by Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt. UConn's Geno Auriemma, who goes home-and-home with our own Aggie women's hoopsters during the next two years, has seven. Skip Bertman and Augie Garrido each have claimed five championships on the College World Series stage. (For what it's worth, John Wooden took home 10. North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance has 21, which means he has run out of fingers and toes for all those rings.) 

The new Aggie MWP braintrust: Leyson, Dettamanti and assistant coach Kevin Peat.

Dettamanti graduated from the then-new UC Davis College of Engineering back in 1965. His return to the campus also reunites him (if somewhat indirectly) with one of his former greats, Stanford goalkeeper and three-time All-American Larry Bercutt, who now serves as a volunteer assistant for the women's water polo team. Dettamanti has emerged from his retirement several times since his last year at Stanford, including stints at Sacred Heart Prep and Menlo-Atherton.

His arrival also means UC Davis has two members of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame patrolling the Schaal deck. Dettamanti entered the Hall in 2002, eight years before women's coach Jamey Wright followed suit.

Getting to chitchat with Dante for even a brief moment was a genuine treat for me, as he has long ranked among my list of prominent Aggie athletics alumni. For the current players who will get to learn from him, I can only assume the privilege is even greater.

Anyway, welcome home, Coach.

-Mark Honbo, assistant athletics communications director, has seen a few notables serve as volunteer assistants in his time with the department. Not long after finishing his NFL career, Ken O'Brien returned to his old stomping grounds to help Coach Biggs in the mid-1990s. Former Cal track & field coach Erv Hunt served for four years under the Vochatzers, meaning UC Davis had both head coaches from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Speaking of the '96 games, Michele Granger was roughly a year removed from having won the gold medal contest at that Olympiad when she called the UC Davis softball office. So great was her name in the softball world that the Aggie staff first thought it was a prank call.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's A Small World

Even though field hockey assistant coaches Mary Kathryn Nielsen and Whit Ryan were hired just a handful of weeks before the start of the season, the two will have no problem working with one another and interim head coach Austin Pile.

“Whit remembers attending a tournament in Vancouver, Canada, where I participated as a member of a club team,” said Nielsen.

“I remember her playing because she stood out amongst all the players, especially her teammates,” recalls Ryan.

In addition to coaching goalkeepers at the club, high school and collegiate level during his time in Colorado, Ryan also served as an official at various field hockey tournaments and games. To prevent a conflict of interest, Ryan has focused his efforts throughout the last five years on sharpening his skills as a field hockey referee and makes every attempt to remove himself from officiating any game involving his club team and/or players.

“For tournaments like that one in Canada, teams will provide at least one coach each to participate as an umpire,” added Ryan.

In that event, it was Ryan that naturally stepped up to officiate as many games as needed; one of those events featured a now familiar face.

“I remember him as a referee for one of those tournament games that involved my club team,” said Nielsen.

When pressed for an assessment of each other’s performance in that game, the details provided by either Nielsen, or Ryan were vague, at best. However, the recent graduate from Duke, via British Columbia, and the player/coach/official from Colorado, with a stop in Europe in-between, recalled that event as a positive experience and proceeded to swap stories for the next 5-10 minutes in an interview that took place before the program held its inaugural fall practice.

Their next shared experience is scheduled to start on Aug. 30 when the Aggies face Missouri State, in their season opener, at Aggie Stadium.

Eric Bankston is Assistant Director, Athletics Communications and is looking forward to his first season with the field hockey program. He's particularly excited for his first penalty corners, easily one of the most exciting plays in sports. Come out to a game and you'll understand why.

Monday, August 12, 2013

An Aggie In The NBA

No, I am not referring to Preston Neumayr, who remains the lone Aggie drafted by an NBA team (8th round, Kansas City Kings, 1983). Nor is this about Dominic Calegari or Joe Harden, who were drafted by the D-League in 2011. I'm also not talking about Corey Hawkins, although I expect to revisit that conversation in a couple of years.

In this case, I refer to one Moira Niesman, an alumnua of our own UC Davis Dance Team, who looks for her second year on the Sacramento Kings Dancers. In fact, she is one of two from her Dance Team senior class to make the pros -- Gigi Ross made the Oakland Raiderettes squad last year.

The SKD puts its finalists up for public vote via Facebook. You can cast a vote on a daily basis here: http://www.nba.com/kings/2013skdfinalist/Moira

UC Davis dance team alum Moira Niesman in an NBA.com publicity shot. (Photographer unknown)

Years ago, I was quoted in the California Aggie saying we had NBA-quality dancers in our Dance Team. It actually came from a random phone conversation with one of their writers. Next thing I knew, I saw my name in the paper, invoking our lesson to the student-athletes that nothing is truly "off the record" when talking to a reporter. Fortunately, I meant it then and I stand by it now. Looks like I knew of what I spoke.

Anyway, I always hear Kings fans grouse about who their team picks. Aggie Nation, give 'em some help... vote, vote, vote.

-Mark Honbo, athletics communications assistant director, can't dance at all. But he always roots for those who can.