At first glance you may not recognize the name Steve Patterson,
but he's the answer to a high-profile trivia question: Who
played center for UCLA between Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton?
Patterson earned three NCAA championship rings as the Bruins
went 86-4 from 1968-69 through 1970-71, and in his shining
moment--his final game for UCLA--he scored a career-high 29
points in a 68-62 victory over Villanova to lead the Bruins to
their fifth consecutive national title. "It's amazing how many
people remember that game," Patterson says. "It's the power of
the Bruin mystique."
When the 6'9" Patterson was drafted 18th by the Cleveland
Cavaliers in 1971, he went from Pauley Pavilion to professional
purgatory. He came off the bench for the mostly last-place Cavs
and Chicago Bulls until '76.
Patterson was the head coach at Arizona State from 1985-86 until
he resigned in February '89. When the Sun Devils toppled the
Bruins on a high, arcing buzzer-beater by 5'9" Arthur Thomas
over UCLA's 6'7" Reggie Miller at Pauley in '87, "I felt like a
traitor," says Patterson. "Coach Wooden was sitting behind the
In 1996 Patterson became the eighth CBA commissioner in 10
years, joining a league in crisis--the CBA had shrunk from 16
teams to 12, and two more clubs would soon fold. Patterson
attempted to give it some stability, but when he tried to boost
attendance by offering Lamar Odom, a high school star at the
time, a $100,000 contract, he was assailed from all sides. The
NCAA saw another threat to the college game, and CBA owners
feared that high salaries would wreck their league. Sensing
owners wanted to take the league in a different direction,
Patterson resigned in '98 even though he had brought in a new
franchise for the first time in 12 years.
Today he runs Patterson Sports Ventures, a consulting firm for
community and youth sports. He lives in Phoenix with his second
wife, Carlette, and three children--her two teenage daughters,
Amanda and Sara, and their daughter Makena, 10 months. His sons
from a previous marriage, John, 22, and Brent, 21, go to Arizona
but don't play basketball.
Patterson, who has also coached boys' and girls' teams, has been
a part of basketball at almost every level but says nothing
compares to his UCLA experience. "The practices were
choreographed like a ballet," he recalls. "The sharp cuts, the
sounds of sneakers squeaking on the wood floor, the ball
popping, Coach Wooden's voice echoing in the Pavilion, the
feeling of harmony--it was as close to perfection as you can
Pavilion to professional purgatory.