LOS ANGELES -- Nearly seven decades after Pete Newell graduated from Loyola Marymount, more than 100 of his family members, former players and friends gathered at the Jesuit University on Monday morning to celebrate his legacy.
Newell, a Hall of Famer who was the first coach to guide a team to the NIT and NCAA championship and an Olympic gold medal, died on Nov. 17 at the age of 93.
Former Los Angeles Lakers player and general manager Jerry West was one of those who spoke of Newell's ability to touch the lives of others and the impact he made on basketball from college to the NBA and the women's game.
West, a 14-time All-Star whose silhouette is the model for the league's logo, paused several times to contain his emotion and grief over the loss of Newell, who was the Lakers general manager from 1972-76.
"The thing that stands out the most in my mind is the enormous humility this man had," said West, who played for Newell on the gold medal-winning 1960 Olympic team. "He left a shadow, a giant shadow that people will walk in for a long time.
"He was very much a father figure to me. He knew what a sickness I had when it came to winning; how I would place enormous blame on myself when we didn't win and he always seemed to be able to say the right thing."
West called playing for Newell and winning the gold medal the "greatest thrill of my basketball career."
Former UCLA coach John Wooden, who guided the Bruins to 10 national titles, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and assistant coach Frank Hamblen, former UCLA and Georgia coach Jim Harrick and former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian were among those who attended the memorial service that lasted nearly three hours.
"He was my coach, a mentor, a father figure and friend," said Bill McClintock, who played for Newell at Cal Berkeley in 1959 and 1960. "He was an incredible man.
"He always had time for everyone. I could go nowhere with Pete whether it was Honolulu, Las Vegas, San Francisco or Chicago, he knew somebody."
Wooden had a 9-9 record against Newell, who coached at the University of San Francisco, Cal Berkeley and Michigan State.
"Through the years we had some very competitive games," Wooden said. "What I liked is, I think there was great mutual respect between the both of us and that's the way it should be."
To the surprise of many, Newell retired from coaching team basketball at the age of 44 in 1960, a year after his Cal team won the NCAA championship.
Newell was also known for his love of horse racing, chain-smoking and coffee-drinking, and West believes he retired because of stress.
But Newell continued to impart his wisdom and passion for the game through the introduction of his widely respected Pete Newell's Big Man camp in the 1970s and started the Big Women's Basketball Camp in 2001.
He also traveled the world giving clinics and for speaking engagements.
Phoenix Suns vice president and Phoenix Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale expressed appreciation for the way Newell supported the women's game by agreeing to work with numerous WNBA stars including Lisa Leslie and former player Rebecca Lobo.
"I think he welcomed everybody with open arms, that was who he was," said Meyers Drysdale, a four-time All-American at UCLA.