WENATCHEE — In years past, the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges has held eight eight-team crossover men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in late December, each hosted by one team from the conference’s four regions.
The host schools for these tournaments usually rotate on a yearly basis. This year, Wenatchee Valley College was scheduled to host a men’s tournament, but before leaving his position as the Knights’ athletic director, Marco Azurdia put a plan into motion to combine both east region tournaments into a single entity and put it on at the Town Toyota Center.
After Azurdia accepted the conference’s executive director position in August, however, problems arose. A major corporate sponsor for the tournament wasn’t found, and as a result the tourney had to be moved to Smith Gymnasium on WVC’s campus.
No conference school has ever hosted a regular-season 16-team tournament before, as far as WVC athletic director Greg Franz knows.
“We’re groundbreakers,” he said.
The Double Crossover Holiday Classic, held Friday, Saturday and today, has been a success, according to Franz. Attendance was spotty at best during the first two days — Franz estimated that between 200 and 300 spectators shuffled in and out of the 700-person capacity gym on Friday. But the vast majority of the visiting coaches and players were pleased with how well WVC officials were able to cram 16 teams and 22 games into a relatively small gymnasium over a three-day period.
To ensure that the tournament ran smoothly, efforts were required from a variety of members of the school’s athletic department.
“We’re pleased with how the tournament’s flowing,” Franz said Saturday afternoon. “(WVC athletic coordinator) Sheila Dresker has done so much work behind the scenes. It’s been such a commitment for a lot of people. Former players have come back to help out, and we’ve got a number of baseball, volleyball and soccer players (assisting) as well. To hold a 16-team tournament in a facility like this, and to keep teams moving through, has been a logistical challenge.”
Crossover tournaments feature two teams from each of the conference’s four regions, providing teams with an opportunity to travel to places they wouldn’t usually go to and face teams that they don’t normally play against.
Azurdia believed that bringing a large holiday tournament to Wenatchee would benefit not only the conference and school, but community as well.
“I thought, ‘Man, it would be cool to get some kids from the west side over here so they could go to Leavenworth and do some things like that,’ ” he said. “We thought it would be good to bring commerce to Wenatchee — the hotels and the restaurants are going to get some extra business out of this.”
WVC men’s coach Coby Weidenbach said he actually preferred the tournament to be held on his team’s home floor instead of the Town Toyota Center.
“There’s a good, competitive atmosphere in here,” Weidenbach said Friday night as he watched the Knights’ women’s team take on Olympic. “There’s a sense of community in the gymnasium, and of course we enjoy having home-court advantage. I know some teams were worried about the locker room situation and things like that, but everything’s been amazingly coordinated. We enjoy seeing what the other regions have to offer as well. These games let you know where your team is at this point in the season and what adjustments you have to make for your league games.”
Today, Tacoma will take on Clark in the men’s championship game at 6 p.m., while Linn-Benton will take on the winner of Saturday’s semifinal contest between Chemeketa and Columbia Basin in the women’s title tilt at 4 p.m.
There were plenty of close contests and dramatic finishes over the tournament’s first two days, including the Tacoma men’s 95-92 semifinal victory over Shoreline on Saturday. Even though the Dolphins lost, they have high hopes for the rest of the season, partly because they are employing the services of a former college basketball star and National Basketball Association player.
Bo Kimble, who set numerous National Collegiate Athletic Association scoring records while playing at Loyola Marymount University in the late 1980s, joined the Shoreline staff as a volunteer assistant coach about two weeks ago. Dolphins coach Greg Turcott wanted to improve his team’s understanding of its offensive system — the same run-and-gun, fast-paced style of play made famous by ex-Loyola Marymount and NBA coach Paul Westhead — and thought that Kimble would be a perfect fit.
It turned out that Kimble, who lives in Philadelphia, had been looking to get back into the game as a coach, and jumped at Turcott’s offer. He’ll remain with the team through the rest of the season.
“This is the first opportunity I’ve had to pursue my dream of becoming a head coach on the college or professional level,” Kimble said. “It feels good to get back in the game. I find coaching very gratifying.”
Kimble was the eighth overall pick in the 1990 draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. He spent two years in the NBA, then played for several more seasons in the Continental Basketball Association, finishing his career with the Yakima Sun Kings in 1998. Ever since then, he’s kept busy by focusing his energies on his business ventures, which include a production company, a contracting company, the non-profit Bo Kimble Foundation and the Forty-Four For Life Foundation, which is committed to decreasing the rate of death and disability due to life-threatening heart diseases.
Kimble’s friend and teammate Hank Gathers died of an undiagnosed heart condition after collapsing on the court during a Loyola Marymount game in 1990.
“I’ve been working with kids for 20 years as a mentor and advocate,” Kimble said. “I’ve enjoyed my experiences with kids, and that’s part of the reason I want to get back into coaching. Also, I know (Westhead’s) system works. It’s the best offensive system in the country. Coaches have won championships with it, and I set records (running it).”