Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three of the 'Golden Boys' of SJSU basketball reminisce

Golden Spartans, A Trio of Former SJSU Student-Athletes

By Gayle Kludt, SJSU class of ’70 and ‘81

(George Clark photo near right, Larry Arnerich far right)

Ask any former student-athlete about their playing days and a smile will come to their face. That smile will widen as they talk about the special players, special friends and special games they experienced during their years in a team uniform. Just recently, I was lucky enough to speak to three former SJSU basketball players, Larry Arnerich, Ray Silva and George Clark.

It was a special privilege to speak to Larry Arnerich, class of 1937, and SJSU’s oldest living roundballer. Arnerich, who will turn 94 in October, played for four years at SJSU and then went on to a 40-year teaching and coaching career. Larry played when the “old” gym was brand new, when there were no athletic scholarships, when SJSU still had frosh teams.

When asked to recall special memories of those days, he cited playing both Stanford and UCLA, scoring 10 points on that UCLA team.
He played for former SJSU coaching legends Bill Hubbard and Hovie McDonald.

When his playing days were over, he went on to coach the SJSU frosh team where one of his players was SJSU sensation Hal Carruth. The then SJSU A.D. wanted to cut Carruth but Arnerich resisted; Carruth went on to become one of SJSU’s best players.

Arnerich did his student teaching at Gilroy High School. It was at Gilroy that he became familiar with the lightweights, also called the 110s, 120s, and 130s. These numbers refer to a combination of age, height and weight that placed players in a playing group. Often times, these players were not old enough, or tall enough or big enough to play on the varsity team but played on these teams as they acquired age, height and weight along with basketball skills.

Arnerich imported this grouping technique when he started his own teaching and coaching career. He certified former SJSU star Carroll Williams, who coached at Santa Clara and later became school A.D., to play at Lincoln High School using this system.

Another of his former players was Norm Mineta who went on to become the mayor of San Jose, a U.S. Congressman and a member of the cabinets of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

He started his teaching career at San Jose Tech in 1937 for the princely annual salary of $1800.00 and stayed there until 1943. Stints at San Jose High, the newly built Willow Glen High and San Jose City College followed. At City, his team won the league championship and Arnerich went on to a career in administration as the Dean of Men, Athletic Director and Director of Community Services.

Both Ray Silva and George Clark will testify to Arnerich's influence on them and thousands of other players and students. Arnerich was married to his wife, Leeoda, for 64 years and has three children and five grandchildren. Just recently, he excitedly told me, he welcomed a second great grandchild into his life.

Ray Silva, SJSU class of 1952, arrived on the San Jose campus in the spring of 1948. Silva played for Arnerich as a tenth grader at San Jose High in 1945. Silva, a member of the 110s, was then a whopping 103 pounds and stood 5’1”. His junior year he had progressed to the 120s and finally made the 130s in his senior year.

At SJSU, he played for Walt McPherson’s frosh team and made the varsity in 1949-51. In those years, San Jose had a wonderful city league program.

After finishing up at SJSU, Silva played in the San Jose Open League before being sent by the Navy to Pensacola, Florida. Commissioned as an Ensign, he became a physical training instructor, working with the cadets in the pre-flight program.

While at Pensacola, he was player-coach of the pre-flight team, and was selected to represent the Naval Basic Training Command on its All Star basketball and volleyball teams.

Silva credits Arnerich for much of his success. As a 14 ½ year old, he assembled with the other 110s to face an unsmiling Arnerich in the San Jose High gym. Arnerich informed the squad there was a no smoking rule, and anyone who smoked would automatically be kicked off the team. Silva, who ate, slept and dreamt basketball, quit smoking that very day and has never had another cigarette. Years later as an insurance agent, he values the importance of that decision.

Silva says he became a coach because of both Arnerich and his college coach, Walt McPherson. Informing his mentor of this career choice, Arnerich replied, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” but Silva persisted.

He did his college senior teaching observation for six weeks with Arnerich, following that up with his practice teaching with Arnerich at Willow Glen High. When Arnerich left Willow Glen to become the coach at San Jose City, he recommended Silva for a coaching position at Berkeley High. Silva had the privilege to send some of his Berkeley players on to City College to play for Arnerich.
Silva and Arnerich have maintained a 64-year relationship with Silva claiming Arnerich to be his lifelong role model. Silva also cherishes his strong friendships with other team members, stating that it is something they will always share. This is a special fraternity, of former players, with a bond like no other.

Like Silva, George Clark, SJSU ’53, played for Arnerich at San Jose High. But unlike Silva, the tall and lanky Clark played on the varsity at SJH from 1945-1948. Clark, recruited by USC, briefly stayed on the Trojan campus but the pull from home was just too much.

By the fall of ’48, he was back in the Bay Area and on the San Jose hard courts. A member of the SJSU frosh team, Clark joined the varsity in January of 1950, playing for then coach Walt McPherson.

A favorite memory involves SJSU playing the then ranked #6 Bowling Green in a game at the Cow Palace. Clark was matched up against All-American Chuck Share, a 6’10" center. Clark held Share to 10 points while scoring 13, leading the Spartans to victory over Bowling Green.

After his playing days, Clark went on to teach history and coach basketball at San Jose High from '55-'59 followed by a vice-principalship at a Cupertino junior high. From then it was an administrative career of over 30 years that included a 12-year stint with the American International Schools. Clark, along with wife Bonnie, worked in Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Columbia before settling over the hill in Santa Cruz for their golden years.

Clark recalls that Arnerich was not only a great coach but a wonderful gentleman, respected by his players and colleagues alike.
Both Silva and Clark are still involved with SJSU, belonging to the Rebounders and attending SJSU games. For Clark, it is a chance to be young again, and “Rah-Rah” for his favorite school. Both hold SJSU near and dear.

For us, the fans, the years at the court go on and on, with new players coming and going, while we stand, watch, and cheer. For the players, the years are few, and go by oh-so-quickly. But the memories, of great games, great friends and great times, last a lifetime. Hopefully our current players realize how truly special these playing days are, and that all too soon, they will join our roster of former SJSU stars. And one day, not very far off, someone will ask them about their playing days, and a special smile will come across their faces, and all the memories will come flooding back, just like they have for Larry Arnerich, Ray Silva, and George Clark. That smile will widen as they reminisce about their playing days as they “Fought on for dear ol’ San Jose State.”

Many, many thanks to Gayle Kludt for her time and effort here as well as for the participation of Larry Arnerich, Ray Silva and George Clark. We salute each and every one of you.

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