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Goodrich to Finally Get His Night at Poly

High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

March 28, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

Gail Goodrich might be the greatest basketball player ever born and raised in Los Angeles.

He helped UCLA win its first two NCAA championships, in 1964 and 1965. He led the Lakers in scoring during their championship season in 1971-72 when they won 33 consecutive games. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.

But perhaps his most endearing achievement was leading Sun Valley Poly High to the 1961 City championship when he played on a broken ankle in the final game against Manual Arts.

Forty-two years later, Poly will finally honor its most famous athlete by retiring Goodrich's number in ceremonies planned for Nov. 21 during an alumni basketball game.

Brad Katz, in his fourth season as Poly coach, didn't understand why there was no championship banner in the gym recognizing the 1961 team or any individual tribute to Goodrich. Several people had told him they thought Goodrich wasn't interested in a ceremony.

But Katz recently got in touch with Goodrich by phone at his home in Greenwich, Conn., and learned he'd be honored to return to the San Fernando Valley. Now the school has nine months to plan for a special night.

"It will bring back lots of memories," Goodrich said. "I've lost track where everyone is. Hopefully, we'll be able to have a reunion."

Goodrich, who turns 60 on April 23, was a 5-foot-11 left-handed guard with a remarkable shooting touch. In the City final, he scored 29 points, suffering the broken ankle in the third quarter.

Goodrich's coach at Poly, Nelson Burton, is 84 and living in a retirement home in Medford, Ore. He has been fighting congestive heart failure but still retains fond memories of his championship team.

"They had figured a way to get into the gym with a coat hanger, made their own light key and came in and practiced on weekends," he said.

Much has changed since Goodrich was a student growing up in North Hollywood. Poly has become a year-round school with a bulging 3,559 students, of which 91% are Latino.

Hardly anyone on campus today probably knows what Goodrich accomplished.

Do they realize that his Laker jersey hangs at Staples Center with those of Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and James Worthy?

This fall, they'll have an opportunity to honor a man who played basketball at its absolute best.

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Westlake Village Oaks Christian held a charity golf tournament Monday, and one of the prizes auctioned was the chance to coach the football team for a week.

The winning bid went to Jim Mora, former coach of the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts and a friend of Oaks Christian Coach Bill Redell.

Asked how much responsibility he'll relinquish to Mora, Redell said, "He's awfully conservative, but I'll try to work with him."

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Chuck Tiffany of Covina Charter Oak, expected to be one of the top pitchers in Southern California this season, made his debut last week with a one-inning performance, striking out two.

Tiffany is expected to pitch three to four innings today against Hacienda Heights Los Altos. He had been sidelined because of a pulled hamstring.

*

Greg Folk, a sophomore at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame who's considered among the top soccer players in Southern California, said he probably will accept a scholarship offer from U.S. Soccer and move to Florida this summer to train full-time with the under-17 national team.

Folk will attend the Edison Academics Center in Bradenton, Fla., and take accelerated classes so he can graduate in June 2004.

He was the punter on Notre Dame's Division III championship football team. Look for all the top college soccer programs on the West Coast to accelerate their recruiting of Folk.

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Former Newhall Hart High and California quarterback Kyle Boller stopped by College of the Canyons in Valencia on Monday to loosen up his arm for NFL workouts.

His arm strength was amazing. He was tossing 70-yard spirals with little strain. He has been running 40 yards in 4.59 seconds. There's speculation he could be taken in the top 10 picks of the NFL draft next month.

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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