NEW PHOTOS! What a Night for La Verne! Jerry West, James Worthy, Bill Sharman & Other Celebs Come to Support Sowing Seeds for Life

October 29, 2010
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Front, from left, James Worthy, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Vicki Brown, Al Snow and Bill Dwyre. Back from left, Al Downing, Tommy Davis, Jim Harrick, Larry Stewart, Greg DeSmet, Jerry West and Tim Grant.

Could La Verne be the next new hotspot for celebrity sightings? Might TMZ keep a beat reporter regularly stationed in the city?

That’s what people are asking in the wake of the Sowing Seeds for Life second annual fundraising golf tournament and dinner at Sierra La Verne Country Club, which featured Lakers royalty Jerry West, Bill Sharman, James Worthy, and Elgin Baylor, along with several other sporting world luminaries.

“What a night,” said Vicki Brown, president of major sponsor DPI Labs of La Verne and CEO of Sowing Seeds for Life, a nonprofit organization that monthly distributes food to more than 5,000 people in difficult situations due to illness, accident or misfortune.

Before West even could sit down to dinner, Mr. Clutch and the player after whom the NBA logo is modeled, announced he would donate his four personal tickets, plus an autographed jersey and parking pass, to any Lakers game as an auction prize if the bid was at least $2,000. The bidding peaked at $2,600, with Alfredo Santana taking home the winning package. Santana, no doubt a huge Lakers fan, also purchased a signed West basketball for $500. Again, all the proceeds help underwrite Sowing Seeds for Life’s charitable outreach.

Elgin Baylor lines up a practice putt.

Elgin Baylor lines up a practice putt.

Earlier in the day, as the players were headed to their golf carts to play 18 holes, one fan donated $500 to the charity so that he could ask Baylor to autograph a basketball. Another young man who arrived late to the dinner donated $1,000 just for the privilege of being in the same room as West and the others.

But you hardly had to be a high-roller to mix with the millionaires. It cost only $150 to play. Thirty-five dollars got you in the door for dinner, which included a first-class meal and desert and a good chance to rub elbows with a galaxy of sports stars, including coach Jim Harrick, whose UCLA Bruins won the 1995 NCAA national basketball championship; shortstop Bill Russell, who anchored a Dodgers infield that has the distinction of being the longest intact unit in baseball history; Dodgers outfielder Tommy Davis, who won National League batting titles in 1962 and 1963; and Dodgers and Yankees pitcher Al Downing, an all-star and comeback player of the year, but perhaps best known for surrendering Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run.

After the golf, helicopter ball drop, silent auction, dinner and music, the room really heated up with an all-star sports panel Q&A moderated by Bill Dwyre, the longtime sports editor of the Los Angeles Times who is now a sports columnist. Dwyre started the Q&A before turning it over to the audience.

“James, can you still dunk?” he asked the 6-foot-9 Worthy.

Bill Russell took cover from the sun inside and out.

Bill Russell took cover from the sun inside and out.

“Yes, with a tennis ball,” replied Big Game James, one of the Lakers headliners during the Lakers’ show time era (1979-89).

Harrick next shared how Tyus Edney, the Bruins’ diminutive but speedy guard, scored the winning basket with just 4.8 seconds left in a second-round game against Missouri in the Bruins’ 1995 championship season, UCLA’s last title.

On a time-out, Harrick walked Edney out to the middle of the court with his final instructions.

“Tyus, do you have a crystal clear understanding of what I just said,” Harrick asked.

“Yes,” Edney replied. “You just told me you wanted me to shoot the ball.”

Edney responded by going coast to coast, racing up the left sideline, breaking one defender’s ankles with his behind-the-back dribble and then banking home the game-winner at the buzzer.

“That was the defining moment of my career,” said Harrick, adding that he might have won a couple more titles if the man seated to his right, James Worthy, had elected to attend UCLA instead of North Carolina.

Dwyre reminisced briefly about a visit to legendary coach John Wooden’s home. An aluminum siding salesman was leaving a message on the coach’s answering machine, and, to Dwyre’s amazement, Wooden picked up the phone. Yet when the next call came from Bill Walton, the great UCLA center and three-time Naismith Player of the Year, Wooden let it go unanswered. Dwyre was flummoxed that Wooden freely chatted with an annoying salesman he didn’t even know, but didn’t pick up Walton’s call.

Jerry West with Awards by Champion Owner Joseph Franzen.

Jerry West with Awards by Champion Owner Joseph Franzen.

“When he played for me, I couldn’t get him to talk,” Wooden explained. “Now I can’t get him to shut up.”

It was West, however, who most riveted the audiences with his frank talk and emotional responses and remembrances. No. 44 was still bringing it.

He gave the audience an inner-circle view of how he, Sharman and Lakers owner Jerry Buss ultimately selected Pat Riley to lead the Lakers early in the 1981-82 season. Buss wanted West to coach or for West and Sharman to co-coach. “I just felt that Pat would be a much better choice because he was really passionate about it,” West said, his opinion prevailing.

West reflected on all those near-misses against the hated Boston Celtics. He said he disliked that he and Baylor had to regularly score 70 points a night. “That’s the way our team was constructed,” West said. “Unfortunately, when you’ve got five guys guarding two, it doesn’t always work out too well.”

West also revealed his deep affection for Pete Newell, who coached Cal Berkeley to the 1959 NCAA men’s basketball championship and a year later coached the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

I trusted him with my life,” West said, one of the few times you’ll see Mr. Clutch choking up. “He’s the most incredible man I think I’ve ever been around. And I played against him twice as a collegian and lost both games.”


West in mid-November of 2008 drove south to see his mentor at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego, when he inadvertently had missed the freeway exit, delaying his visit by about 15 minutes. In that brief span, Newell had died.

“It was of the most surreal days I’ve ever spent in my life,” West said. “For three weeks, I was a basket case.

“Men are very proud people,” West continued. “I don’t use the word ‘love,’ okay, I don’t. It’s not in my vocabulary. I use ‘like’ and ‘acquaintance’ a lot. But he was one man that I truly loved and I never got a chance to tell him that.

“He retired at age 44 because he couldn’t take it anymore,” West said in closing. “He got to the point, like me. I couldn’t take it anymore, and when you can’t take it anymore, it’s time to leave.”

But West, in reality, is more in the game than ever – maybe not as player or as Lakers general manager or president when he was instrumental in bringing both Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles – but as a humanitarian.

In May 2009, West, now 72, accepted the job as executive director of the Northern Trust Open tournament at Riviera (Feb. 14-20 2011). Last year he helped raise $1.5 million for charity. He also helped provide scholarships and a learning lab for students at the University of West Virginia, in honor of his brother who was killed in the Korean War.

West is well aware of his athletic legacy, but said he hoped that’s not what he’s remembered for. “I hope to hell it’s not about being a basketball player,” he said. “I’m not what people think I am. Not at all. I do know I care deeply about people and I care about giving.”

High bidder on Jerry West's personal seats.

High bidder Alfredo Santana won Jerry West's personal seats.

That’s why West traveled in traffic on a getaway Thursday from his Bel-Air home to La Verne, one of 70 charity events he has made in the past six months. The other celebrities made similar sacrifices, including the 84-year-old Hall of Famer Sharman, who led the Lakers to their first Los Angeles title in 1972.

Still frail from recent heart surgery, Sharman was there, supporting Sowing Seeds for Life because he cares. “What a night!”

For more information about Sowing Seeds for Life, visit

More photos to follow soon, pb.


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One Response to “NEW PHOTOS! What a Night for La Verne! Jerry West, James Worthy, Bill Sharman & Other Celebs Come to Support Sowing Seeds for Life”

  1. Thank you Peter for catching the spirit of this special day. Everyone came together to support Sowing Seeds For Life, the Non Profit organization that feeds the hungry in our area on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

    Having these celebrities in La Verne was really special. The money raised for Sowing Seeds in this economy was outstanding. For those of us who attended it will be a night we will remember for a long time.

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