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.

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