The nickname that Dennis Awtrey ’70 earned at Santa Clara doesn’t require much explanation. Considering he was 6-feet-10-inches with a trunk like a telephone pole, “Tree” wasn’t just a way to shorten Awtrey’s last name, it was an apt physical description.
Certainly, Awtrey loomed tall over the golden era of SCU’s men’s hoops. Along with brothers Bud Ogden ’69 and Ralph Ogden ’70, the powerful center helped the Broncos to their best records ever, including a 27-2 finish in 1969, when they ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“Winning is really fun. Repeat that after me:
Winning is really fun.”
“I didn’t see all the old guys, but you’d have to say that was the best team Santa Clara ever had,” says Carroll Williams, who was assistant coach when Awtrey played and later became head coach and athletic director. Awtrey could do it all: scoring, rebounding, passing, and even pounding against some of the game’s all-time greats like UCLA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who went on to become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader.
“Awtrey moved people around,” Willams says. “I’m sure Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would tell you. He had quite a few jostles with Kareem.”
The WCC Hall of Honor
These days, Awtrey is happy with a much lower profile. The former All-American and his wife recently built a bed-and-breakfast in Manzanita, Ore., a stone’s throw from the ocean and about 100 miles from his daughter in Portland. (His son lives in Denver.) The town has just over 600 residents, which is how Awtrey likes it.
“We don’t have a stoplight for 25 miles in either direction,” he says.
His accomplishments at SCU, though, still cast a long shadow. In March, Awtrey was inducted into the third West Coast Conference Hall of Honor Class, where he joins previous Santa Clara honorees Brandi Chastain ’91 and Williams, his old coach.
|Happy times: Awtrey playing for the Broncos. Photo courtesy SCU Athletics Media Relations.
During his time at SCU, the Broncos amassed 73 wins and 12 losses. Awtrey’s numbers still jump off the page. He ranks fifth on the school’s all-time scoring list, 14 points behind NBA star Steve Nash ’96, despite playing in an era when freshmen weren’t allowed on varsity. Awtrey also ranks first in scoring average, second in rebounding, and fourth in shooting percentage. And the history major did it all while making Academic All-American First Team each year.
After graduating, Awtrey was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, where he briefly reunited with Bud Ogden. It was the start of a 12-year pro hoops career that included stints with six teams and an NBA championship with the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics.
But Awtrey—whose later career included selling commercial real estate, and coaching and teaching in high school—said his happiest times playing ball were at SCU. There were great academics, a great team, and great teammates, he says. And of course, a steady diet of winning didn’t hurt.
“Winning is really fun,” he says. “Repeat that after me: Winning is really fun.”