CARSON, Calif. -- A packed house filled with family, friends, former players and colleagues, and the 2009-10 Cal State Dominguez Hills men's basketball team, provided the perfect setting last Saturday night as the Toro family honored former men's basketball head coach Dave Yanai with the unveiling of the "Dave Yanai Court," the culmination of a year-long project to honor one of its own.
"It was double-barreled positive with the scholarship and the naming," begins Yanai, the winningest coach in the history of the men's basketball program, who remains as modest as ever. "I am elated to have the financial help for the kids, and at the same time humbled by the court naming.
"I am grateful to my assistant coaches, staff and trainers, and most of all the players who all had a huge hand in something like this happening, and they all have a piece of what happened here tonight."
Beginning with a standing room only reception at Club 1910 that served as an extension of the dinner in early October held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the celebration moved south towards the Torodome, where the unveiling would precede the men's basketball game against visiting Cal State Monterey Bay.
After a booming introduction from longtime Toros Athletics announcer Dennis Lien and a few words from Guillen that included a plaque presentation, the Torodome floor was unveiled to reveal the words "Dave Yanai Court" on both sides of midcourt, where a raucous applause erupted as a fitting tribute to a man who made the Carson basketball court his personal classroom, using basketball as a vehicle to impart important life lessons to his players and those who came in contact with him.
“Tonight’s ceremony was the culmination of more than a year of planning, dedication and commitment by the Dave Yanai Court and Scholarship Committee," began CSUDH Director of Athletics Patrick Guillen, the event's brainchild.
"Coach Yanai is a special person who is very deserving of this honor, not just for his 19 years of dedicated service to the university but for his mentorship and commitment to the thousands of students he touched during his tenure on our campus. The scholarship endowment and the naming of the 'Dave Yanai Court' will ensure that his legacy lives on forever here at CSUDH.”
Trailing by five entering intermission, the men's basketball team erupted for 50 second half points to run away with a 79-64 win over the Otters, prompting an impromptu visit from Yanai into an ever-familiar locker room.
"It felt very natural," said Yanai, with a chuckle. "When you've done it for 38 years, the minute you stand before the players, the words seem to just kind of flow. Not just the basketball speak, but how it relates to being good people, and continuing to strive for excellence, especially since Pomona and San Bernardino are next on the schedule.
"One of the things I said to the players is that there are few thousand other students on the campus who don't have the privilege of playing for Cal State Dominguez Hills, and representing the campus," he continues. "But just as important as enjoying each day, and the journey and pursuit towards the title, always remember to work at being unselfish and a caring human being, because that's what makes a basketball team, and a good society."
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 John Nojima, ending his coaching career at CSUDH with 287 of his 401 total wins, the winningest coach in CSUDH men's basketball history.
"I would like to thank each and every one of the members for their time and efforts in helping us reach our goals," continued Guillen. "I would also like to thank the hundreds of people that made donations to the campaign that will make the annual scholarship a reality.
"Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank President García for her support of this project as well as Dr. Sue Borrego and Greg Saks. Without the support of our Senior administration, we would not have been able to move this forward."