Former CSUDH Men's Basketball Coach Dave Yanai Honored at Dinner
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The world famous Los Angeles Athletic Club, founded in 1880 and home to the annual Wooden Awards Ceremony, witnessed yet another prestigious event last Sunday as it hosted the "Dave Yanai Tribute Dinner and Silent Auction," honoring the former men's basketball head coach of Cal State Dominguez Hills.
"Tonight was a very special evening for a very special man, as evidenced by the love, admiration, gratitude and respect felt in the capacity-filled room," said CSUDH Athletics Director Patrick Guillen, reflecting on a tremendous night.
"Tonight's incredible event was the culmination of hundreds of hours of work, and I would like to express my deep appreciation to those who worked so tirelessly on this campaign, especially our co-chairs in Henry Ota, John Nojima, Dan Guerrero and Sam Lagana for their leadership, as well as to emcee Rob Fukuzaki, who offered his time and talent in helping make the night one to remember."
Emceed by KABC-7's sports anchor Fukuzaki, with speakers including UCLA Athletics Director Guerrero and ESPN/ABC analyst Steve Lavin, the event gave glimpses into coach Yanai's storied and award-filled coaching history, where guests including family, friends, colleagues, former players and co-workers filled the room with anecdotes about the man who many referred to as "so much more than just a coach."
Beginning with a cocktail hour featuring a vast array of silent auction items, the evening's dinner commenced with Guillen giving a warm welcome, followed by CSUDH VP Sue Borrego saying a few words on behalf of CSUDH President Mildred García, who gave way to Fukuzaki.
The southern California sports anchor icon then proceeded to introduce Lavin, former Toro Nojima and Guerrero, who each gave his personal account of the man who helped teach, mentor and inspire them, with composure, honesty, and caring emerging as common denominators.
Fukuzaki and Guillen followed suit, with Pepperdine's Associate Vice Chancellor and former CSUDH administrator Lagana interjecting with tremendous live auction items, before coach Yanai took the podium.
After thanking Guillen, who spearheaded this night and January 9, the date of the court unveiling, his wife and kids, and parents, Yanai named five individuals who served as mentors in brother Frank, Mas Fukai, Nojima's father, the night's honorary chairman John R. Wooden and Pete Newell, before giving credit and showing appreciation to the guest speakers, as well as his former assistants, trainers and players, many of whom were in the audience.
"Obviously it's a great honor and I'm really humbled by this whole affair," began Yanai, before the dinner. "The main thing for me is my thoughts for the scholarships this night may grant, but I’m so honored about the court naming.
"There are so many players, assistant coaches, boosters, administrators, and people who were my colleagues at CSUDH all these many years, and everyone of them has a piece of this wonderful honor, and when they see my name on the floor, I hope they feel like it’s their name because they all have a piece of it.
"I retired four years ago, and you just want to get onto other things that you’ve put on hold for a number of years like enjoying the grandkids, taking trips with one's wife, golfing and assorted other things. I’m an avid reader and now I can do it at my leisure and am getting the chance to do all the things that I love.
"And I also get a chance to do a little basketball activity," he continued, never quite being able to leave the game that's been so good to him. "I’ve gone to practices of various college coaching friends of mine and had a chance to critique and see some things that might help them.
"But this is something that I didn’t expect and to be honest, I’m really shy about these kinds of things. All I can say is that I’m humbled and honored to have this wonderful thing happen to me, and it's a tremendous honor."
Yanai spent 19 seasons as head coach at CSUDH, where his Toro teams advanced to the 1981, 1987 and 1989 NCAA Tournaments. In addition, he guided the Toros to the 1979 NAIA National Championship Elite EIght after winning the NAIA District III Championship in only his second year in Carson.
Individually, he claimed the 1979 District Coach of the Year, the 1987 NCAA West Region Coach of the Year and two-consecutive CCAA Coach of the Year Awards (1987 and 1988). Yanai also coached 34 All-CCAA Conference, two CCAA Athletes of the Year, eight NCAA All-West Region, two NCAA All-Americans and one NCAA Division II Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in Nojima, ending his coaching career at CSUDH with 287 of his 401 total wins, the winningest coach in CSUDH men's basketball history.
Part II of the “Dave Yanai” tribute will take place on Saturday, January 9, at 7:00 pm, when the Torodome court will be unveiled in his honor.