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Denny Fitzpatrick, Millennium Hall of Fame

November 16, 1999

For a skinny kid coming out of Newport Harbor High who played only

one season of varsity basketball, Denny Fitzpatrick turned into a sizable

force in college.

A late bloomer who still holds the Orange Coast College record for the

highest free-throw percentage (85.4%) in a single season (minimum 100

attempts), the sharpshooting Fitzpatrick played under Pete Newell at Cal

and was chosen team MVP of the Golden Bears' 1959 NCAA championship squad

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that beat West Virginia (and All-American Jerry West) in the finals.

"We had a great team, but we didn't have any stars," said Fitzpatrick,

a 6-foot shooting guard who dropped in 20 points to lead Cal in the NCAA

title game.

Fitzpatrick, an All-Pacific Coast Conference selection in '59 who also

made the All-NCAA Tournament squad, was so impressed by Newell that he

named his first son after him.

"Pete Newell is the greatest," said Fitzpatrick, who arrived at Cal

expecting to redshirt in 1957-58, but a teammate's broken collarbone

created an opening and Fitzpatrick wound up being the first guard off the

bench that season as the Bears met (and lost to) Elgin Baylor and Seattle

University in the regional finals.

"(Baylor) was phenomenal. He was the best player we played against at

that time, better than Oscar Robertson (at Cincinnati), Wilt Chamberlain

(at Kansas) or West. (The Seattle Chieftains) made a half-court shot at

the gun to tie it, then they beat us in overtime."

The following year, Cal won it all with Fitzpatrick as its leading

scorer.

In their victory over Cincinnati in the NCAA semifinals, the Bears

held Robertson, the NCAA Player of the Year who came in averaging 36

points per game, to only 16. In the finals, NCAA Tournament MVP West

scored 28 points. "We felt we did a good job on (West)," Fitzpatrick

said. "We had very good team defense."

Had Fitzpatrick redshirted his first year, he would've played on the

Cal squad in 1960 that advanced to the NCAA final and lost to Ohio State

(with Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek).

But, following his standout collegiate basketball career, Fitzpatrick

was far from finished as a top-notch athlete.

Fitzpatrick, a better baseball player in high school (when he weighed

only 145 pounds) than a basketball player, played indoor volleyball for

the Hollywood YMCA in 1961, when the six-man team captured the Amateur

Athletic Union national championship.

Fitzpatrick, who also played in beach volleyball tournaments,

continued playing basketball until age 40. He's also an avid golfer and

tennis player.

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