July 29, 2004
Steve Patterson is being remembered as a class individual at Arizona State.
The former ASU men's basketball coach died Wednesday in the Valley from lung cancer at age 56.
"Steve was a real nice person," said Tom Collins, ASU senior associate athletic director who worked with Patterson. "He treated everyone with class and dignity. It's sad."
Patterson, a star center for John Wooden at UCLA, was an assistant at ASU when Bob Weinhauer was fired after it was discovered the program had violated NCAA rules.
Weinhauer was terminated in the summer of 1985 and Patterson was named interim coach. The interim tag was removed in mid-August by then athletic director Charles Harris.
"Steve took the job like a champion," Collins said. "He worked hard trying to build the thing. He always had the best interest of the players at heart."
However Patterson couldn't transform the three national championships he won as a player at UCLA into success at ASU.
In his fourth season, Patterson abruptly resigned an hour before ASU was to play California on Feb. 4, 1989. He quit with eight games remaining when Harris wouldn't give him a vote of confidence.
ASU was 10-9 overall and 3-7 in the Pac-10 at the time and fans were calling for a change. A crowd of fewer than 3,000 was in attendance to hear the announcement which ended his tenure with a 48-56 overall record, 23-41 in the Pac-10.
Patterson devoted much of the rest of his life to charitable organizations, working with Special Olympics and founding the Grand Canyon State games, a state-wide competition patterned after the Olympics.
"I think he realized coaching basketball wasn't his thing," Collins said.
Patterson is survived by his wife, Carlette, and five children plus his mother and two brothers.
The funeral will be Monday at 1 p.m. at Valley Presbyterian Church Sanctuary in Paradise Valley.