Hooptown USA - Hall of Fame

Bobby Jack

Bobby Jack Sumler - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

By the first Hoopfest in 1990, Bobby Jack Sumler had played on and ruled nearly every basketball court in Spokane.

By the first Hoopfest in 1990, Bobby Jack Sumler had played on and ruled nearly every basketball court in Spokane.

It was only natural that he would take part in the 3-on-3 tournament between the curbs on Spokane Falls Boulevard in his hometown.

Of course, there wasn't an official elite division in that very first Hoopfest, but Bobby Jack played anyway. And after the tournament godfathers approved an elite division, he rose to the top, and won the first two championships in 1991 and 1992 with Swackhammer's team that included Randy Smith, David Peed, Arnold Brown, Dexter Griffin, and Kemo Patrick. Names Hoopfest aficionados appreciate.

Bobby didn’t know he would become a foundational part of something that would put the city on the map—the largest 3-on-3 basketball event and the Best Basketball Weekend on Earth, as they say.

Bobby Jack Sumler is the first playing inductee in the Hoopfest wing of the Hooptown Hall of Fame.

The tournament was a success from the beginning, and Sumler's participation gave it instant credibility. He was, and three decades later, remains Spokane's one enduring playground legend, although he maintains that he never looked at it that way. "I never played the game for accolades or trophies or what people were saying," Sumler said, "I never set out to be an MVP. I just played because I love basketball and I love to compete."

When he was a teenager, Sumler moved to Spokane with his family from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He had never heard of Spokane and thought they were headed to Washington, D.C.

As a senior at Lewis and Clark High School, he led the Greater Spokane League in scoring, averaging 18.2 points a game, and ranked number two in the league in rebounding from his guard spot.

He didn't surface again in school basketball until he attended Community Colleges of Spokane seven years later and led his team in scoring (17.9) and set a school record for steals while making the all-region team.

By that time, his renown had been cemented in more informal settings—pick-up games at Corbin Park, runs at the East Central Community Center, and the old Summer Pro-Am league at Mead High School.

He could shoot it, drive it and dunk it, and break a backboard doing it.

Bobby could tear down defenders and make them look silly. He was a gambler on defense, an instinctive rebounder, and a slick, not always showy, passer. And he didn't mind talking it up while he did all that. "Bobby's the kind of player I would pay to watch," his CCS coach, Sam Brasch, once said, "and I don't say that about very many people."

He was also a player other players wanted to play with. So when Hoopfest became a reality, his phone rang. The possibilities and the concept of playing downtown on the streets intrigued him. "I can't remember how many people asked me,” Bobby said, “I knew it would be competitive.

”All different kinds of talent, coming from all over. You might never know what their background was or their playing ability. Every team, every person you came up against, it was always different. I didn't know how hard it would be to win."

There was no center court in Riverfront Park in those early days of Hoopfest. No bleachers rising high on three sides. Spectators and players from eliminated teams were wedged along the curbs and sidewalks, and the atmosphere seemed tense. Some of that was because the final game always boiled down to the same teams with the same, mostly local guys. "It was always us and the guys from Whitworth," Sumler said, "Mark Wheeler, John Graham and those guys. We beat them two years in a row, and then the year we were going for three they wound up beating us. Those guys were always tough. They always played so hard and the games were so competitive. Always a great game."

A lot of what made them great was Sumler himself. "It was amazing to play with him," said Shann Ferch, another Hoopfest legend. "He'll pick lesser guys and win with them. He knows how to get people to play well."

The 1993 Hoopfest was Sumler's last. He played through his 30s and 40s, but a neck injury that required surgery and the implanting of a rod put him on the sidelines. His attachment to the game continues with him staging youth camps where he still astounds youngsters with flat-footed shooting exhibitions.

"It's an amazing thing," Bobby said, "the most fun part for me was just meeting all my old friends and playing against them, and then coming together afterward. The friendship after was the important thing for me and the competitiveness."

When Bobby Jack Sumler takes it to the streets, it’s always a Hooptown Hall of Fame moment.

George Raveling

George Raveling - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

“We want George!” They chanted, “we want George!”

His team had just beaten UCLA after 27 consecutive losses to the Bruins, and the students who had helped pack Beasley Coliseum were demanding a curtain call from the coach. “We want George!” They chanted, “we want George!” From the student side, it spread around the arena. The shouting went on for three minutes, then five. Clapping and foot-stomping provided the percussion, and almost no one among the 11,742 people who crowded their way in for tipoff had left.

Underneath the stands, Washington State athletic director Sam Jankovich hurried into the Cougars' locker room and grabbed George Raveling by the elbow. "If you don't go back on the court, there's going to be a riot."

And when he went back down the ramp into the arena and picked up the microphone to address the congregation, George Raveling wept. "Of all my moments in basketball," he would say years later, "that was probably the most special."

It was a Hall of Fame moment. George Raveling has a way with those, and now there is another one. He's a charter member of the Hooptown Hall of Fame.

The essence of Hooptown is the connection basketball can engender in a community, and Raveling embraces that essence. It was true throughout the 11 years he coached at Washington State University, and in the years since. He's become one of the game's most recognized and loyal ambassadors, and an elder sought after for his big-picture perspective. He's also been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, as a contributor. As the 1970s closed and the ‘80s dawned, Raveling was among the key figures in the Inland Northwest during the sport’s expansion here, helping to make basketball part of the community's consciousness.

Raised in Washington, D.C., and a basketball star at Villanova, Raveling was hired at WSU in 1972, the first African-American head coach in Pac-12 history. He had no previous head coaching experience and no ties to an area with scant ethnic diversity. "On the surface," he said, "Washington State was the last school that should have hired a black coach."

But what Cougar basketball and the sport in the region needed was a recruiter, a showman, a drummer, and an Energizer bunny, all of which Raveling was. And in the end, the 167 wins he amassed in 11 years on the job at WSU may have been the least of his accomplishments.

A sampling:

The 1980 victory over UCLA was the launching pad for WSU's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 39 years. Three years later, Raveling's Cougs would do it again and win a first-round game over Weber State.

Future basketball professionals started finding their way to campus. Raveling produced six NBA players, including a pair of 14-year pros in Craig Ehlo and James Donaldson. And there were some that got away. One recruit introduced to a football crowd during his campus visit in the fall of 1973 was future Hall of Famer Moses Malone.

Originated by Marv Harshman and Jud Heathcote in the early '70s, Cougar Cage Camp attendance mushroomed under Raveling's direction and created a new generation of fans. It was the rare Spokane youngster who didn't spend one summer week learning the game on campus.

Raveling was hired at WSU in 1972, the first African-American head coach in Pac-12 history.

George Raveling paid for the first women's athletic scholarship at WSU out of his basketball budget and it went to Jeanne Eggart. She scored 1,967 points, a school record that stood for 39 years. She later embarked on a remarkable coaching career. Jeanne joins Raveling as a Hooptown Hall of Fame charter member.

When the annual two-game series with Gonzaga was winnowed to one game, Raveling made sure it was played in Spokane at the old coliseum, another way to reach out to WSU's Hooptown fans, and a good deal for the Zags, too. Later, he would bring his Iowa and USC teams here to play Gonzaga. Raveling grew the audience, and so grew the game.

Many people came to see Rav himself, hurling his 6-foot-5 frame off the bench, arms thrust to the rafters, showing off the vertical that made him a rugged college rebounder. For a time, his sideline perch was a director's chair, a fitting throne for the maestro of a production. Animated and exciting, he set a tone for his teams and the fans.

"There was one game when I guess I didn't have much energy and wasn't really into it, and we were struggling and the place was dead," he recalled. "Terry Kelly came over at a break and said, 'Coach, you need to get up—the students think you gave up on them.' I never coached anywhere else where there was a greater and more valid connection between the student body and the coach."

And when the Cougs moved into Beasley in 1973, the crowd expanded to over 9,000 for the dedication game. Attendance topped 10,000 on 21 occasions in the Raveling era, including the 13 biggest crowds in Cougar history.

The echoes go on for George Raveling as an inductee into the Hooptown Hall of Fame.

Gonzaga Mens
1999 basketball

Gonzaga Mens 1999 basketball - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

Din and delirium rocked America West Arena. On a tip-in by Casey Calvary, the Gonzaga Bulldogs had upset Florida, 73-72—their third win in the 1999 NCAA Basketball Tournament and their ticket to the Elite Eight.

Even a week earlier, it was an outcome that seemed no more reachable than Jupiter for a school with little history in the way of basketball pedigree. While the party raged on in the stands and outside, Gonzaga coach Dan Monson, disheveled and drained, stood before his team in the assigned locker room. The short turnaround time between games in the tournament required celebrations to be abridged, and Monson needed everyone to pivot to the next challenge.

"Guys," he told the Zags, "we're 40 minutes from the final four. We've got to..." His train of thought was derailed, and so he began again. "We're 40 minutes from the final four. What we've got to do is..." Nothing. Monson smiled and lifted his arms in a helpless shrug. "I don't know what we have to do." He broke into laughter that spread across the room.

That joy and shared camaraderie has never subsided with the Zags. But the identity of Gonzaga basketball, over two decades later—the number one rankings, the number one recruits, trips to the final four—would not have materialized without the trailblazing of the 1999 Zags, who are now charter members of the Hooptown Hall of Fame.

Naturally, their roots had roots. The program had made a leap to 20-wins per year earlier in the decade, and the influence of young assistants like Monson, Mark Few, and Bill Grier, on Dan Fitzgerald’s staff elevated the recruited talent. The maiden trip to the NCAAs in 1995 was a breakthrough.

After Monson's promotion to head coach came a boost in scheduling and ambition, but also the disappointment of not making the tournament in 1998. That defeat seemed to harden a new resolve in a cast now recognized as Gonzaga royalty.

Matt Santangelo was the ringleader Gonzaga got on the recruiting rebound when Stanford opted to offer a scholarship to another player. Quentin Hall, just 5-foot-8 and an impish motormouth from the Bahamas, gave the Zags a second point guard in the backcourt and a different degree of competitive fire. Richie Frahm was among the nation's best 3-point marksmen, which made it easy to underestimate the rest of his game. At 6-11, Jeremy Eaton resembled a too-tall-in-the-saddle rodeo cowboy, which in fact he was. Casey Calvary's every dunk seemed like an assault on gravity and glass backboards. Axel Dench, the no-worries Aussie, set sticky screens and canned timely jumpers. From one time walk-ons, Ryan Floyd and Mike Nilson came bench pop and defensive grit. And last but not least, Mark Spink and Mike Leasure made their most significant contributions in practice—until they were so desperately needed in the tournament.

"This is a team that doesn’t have a national name," UConn coach Jim Calhoun proclaimed, "but has a national game."

So the Bulldogs went on to prove themselves on the biggest stage.

Gifted with a short trip to Seattle to open the tournament, the Zags turned KeyArena into a virtual home court and knocked off Minnesota for the school's first NCAA Tournament victory. More eyebrows were raised when they out-muscled brawny Stanford in round 2. By this time, they were capturing hearts across the nation, with the glow reflected back home. In downtown Seattle, an older fan stopped Spink to say, "Thank you for bringing the pride back to Spokane."

Then it was off to Phoenix for Calvary's phenomenal tip-in, the video of which true Zag fans keep queued up on their phones to this day. The ride finally ended in the Elite Eight against Calhoun's eventual national championships—but not before the Bulldogs were within a point with under a minute left.

Along the way, the Zags had made converts out of the very basketball fans whose office-pool brackets they had ruined. They charmed the media with humor, candor, and wisdom, even if they could never quite get folks to properly pronounce the school's name. They established a standard—buttressed with repeat achievement.

Gonzaga would not have become the most remarkable, unlikely story in college basketball history if 1999 could be seen as a one-off, an accident. Ensuing Gonzaga teams have made sure it wasn't. And they also know where it all began.

"Throughout this whole run, I kept telling our players it was great, but it wouldn't change our lives," Monson said, "but I was wrong. It has."

It helped change Spokane into Hooptown, as well.

Jeanne Eggart

Jeanne Eggart Helfer - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

She wore her hair short enough to pass as a boy and had a speech impediment, things that could send a kid in search of ways to be accepted or special.

She wore her hair short enough to pass as a boy and had a speech impediment, things that could send a kid in search of ways to be accepted or special.

Growing up in Walla Walla, Jeanne idolized her older brother, Don, and tagged along to all the neighborhood pick-up games. "I always wanted my brother to want me on his team," she said, "that sort of drove me from the earliest age." She didn't just play every sport her brother and his friends played, she competed, and she never stopped.

Her jest for sports took her from being a hometown basketball sensation in Walla Walla to being the first female scholarship athlete at Washington State University.

A few years later, she began her high school coaching career and cemented Spokane's reputation for creating champions.

By the time she retired, the funniest thing had happened. The girls who followed in her wake had taken on a similar competitive aura. No longer a misfit. Jeanne became a role model for the modern fit. And now, Jeanne Helfer is a charter member of the Hooptown Hall of Fame, in any category you want to name, athlete, coach, even pioneer, though she never quite felt like one.

Opportunity and acceptance compel a sense of responsibility to go at things hard, something she learned at an early age. "I had opportunity," she said, "I was blessed to have a coach in high school, Charlotte Worth, who took those first steps through the snow. I lived in a community that embraced girl’s and women's sports. Our teams were good, and a lot of times some of the fans would watch our games and leave before the boys played."

Her drive helped Jeanne take her high school teams to two state championship games and made her the school's all-time scoring leader and a Parade Magazine All-American. It also put her front and center in a pivotal moment, when she was awarded the first athletic scholarship for a female athlete at WSU in 1977. And she earned it. Not only did she set a school scoring record with 1,967 points in her career, but she also rewrote the school javelin record and placed fourth in the Olympic Trials.

All the wins didn’t come without challenges in a complicated time. In the wake of Title IX, WSU female athletes felt the school wasn't living up to its legal obligations for equitable treatment. Naturally, they wanted their highest-profile competitor to sign on to their lawsuit, which eventually produced significant changes in the program. But Helfer balked at the tenor of the suit and felt conflicted because the men’s basketball coach, George Raveling, had secured her scholarship. She had forged a connection with him during his summer camps. "I wouldn't have gone to Washington State without George," she said. The camps drove home to Helfer how important mentors can be. Not that it was a turning point. She had planned on being a coach since she was in the fourth grade.

And while the financial help was treasured, it also set her apart. "I walked into an environment where I'm the new kid on scholarship and that's what everybody wants to talk about," she said, "and not all of my teammates were thrilled about that. It was just new to everybody.” “I couldn't be more proud that I was the first one through that door.”

“What am I taking away from kids if it's just a quest to win? I've got to give them something more than just basketball.“

“I wish we could have won more and that I'd been a better teammate, but you do the best you can." What she perhaps didn't expect is that by the time she finished college, there had been a societal shift. The opportunities for girls to play that inched up in the 1970s was accelerated in the ‘80s by a flood of females determined to excel. This was the case at Mead High School, a sleeping giant in girls basketball, and where Helfer was a head coach at age 24. By the dawn of the 1990s, the sleeping giant description of Mead no longer rang true. In seven years under Helfer, the Panthers won five league titles, went to state and placed every year, won three championships, and were runners-up once. By 1997, Helfer had won 268 games in 14 years and was on track for 500 in her career.

But when Mt. Spokane High School opened in the Mead district, she elected to join the staff there, where her daughter would go to school. It meant starting a program from scratch in the best girls basketball league in the state, and her teams didn't win as much. And yet, upon retirement in 2006, her record was 329-213.

By then, however, the concept of winning had been redefined for her. "Those early years at Mead. I hate to say it. Part of my identity was, I felt like a loser. I was the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl. We kept coming up short. Then in 1990, we had a great team and won that first (state) championship and I just felt different about it all.”

I said to my husband, Mike, “This is awesome, but it isn't even in the top five highlights of my life. If I'm coaching with only this in mind, what about the journey? What am I taking away from kids if it's just a quest to win? I've got to give them something more than just basketball.”

That's a hall of fame vision—in Hooptown USA.

John Stockton

John Stockton - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

The legendary games in John Stockton's Hall of Fame basketball career occurred far from the old Delta Center cauldron of his NBA Finals, or the Pavelló Olímpic de Badalona where he won his first gold medal.

They happened in the driveway of his boyhood home in Spokane, across from the Catholic Girls School and the dormitory patrolled by the sisters of the Holy Names. It was there on north Superior Street that pick-up games between sides of various numbers and skills rambled on. But often as not, it was just Stockton and his older brother Steve waging sweaty combat of ever-increasing intensity and volume.

On one occasion, as the brothers recall, John split Steve's lip. Older brother responded with a hard elbow to John's stomach. Little brother retreated to the porch and issued a loud and comprehensive stream of profanity that didn't seem to faze Mom or Dad just inside the back door. "But you could hear the nuns slamming the windows across the street," John said.

If the competitive spirit of John Stockton is innate, this is where it was given its edge, and it carried him to places maybe no one beyond the man himself could imagine—capped by his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. And now he's in the first class of Hooptown's Hall of Fame.

Stockton's ascendance in the game put several things on the national basketball map: his hometown, his college alma mater of Gonzaga, and his father's tavern, Jack and Dan's, where a satellite dish sprouted in 1984 so Utah Jazz telecasts could be pulled from the sky.

When Stockton became not just a Jazz starter but a bonafide NBA star, the young players in Spokane had a role model who had made the climb from their very own town. It cut the notion down from impossible to improbable and bridged a great gulf—something John Stockton achieved by the relentlessness at his core.

The boyhood world of John Houston Stockton was a plot maybe a half-mile in circumference—the perimeters being Mission Park across the street, St. Aloysius Grade School, Gonzaga Prep, and Gonzaga University. Grandfather Houston had been a former football star there, often regarded as the best in Gonzaga history.

In his senior year, Stockton inched his way to national prominence and became West Coast Conference Player of the Year. He survived until the last cut of the 1984 U.S. Olympic trials and, to the bewilderment of many Jazz fans, was the 16th pick in the NBA Draft. Within four seasons, he was an NBA All-Star, defining the point guard position as a pass-first creator. The puzzle had been solved—and the legend continued to grow.

John Stockton’s final numbers are staggering. A 19-year NBA career, all with the Jazz. NBA records for career assists (15,806) and steals (3,265) that appear out of reach. Less than 300 points from the 20,000 threshold. Ten All-Star Games along with 11 appearances on the All-NBA team. And for Stockton, a more important distinction: the Jazz making the playoffs in each of his 19 seasons, with two appearances in the NBA Finals.

"There is nobody that can distribute the ball, plus lead his team, like John Stockton," said Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson when Stockton was on the verge of breaking the career assists record a full decade before retirement. "He is the best at it."

Not at all lost amid the grueling pro seasons were two special summers in 1992 and 1996—the Olympic gold medals he won with the original editions of the Dream Team, gratifying in their own right and the happy resolution to that Olympic team miss that nagged him back in 1984. In 1996, a league-assembled panel named John one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

Upon retirement in 2004, the Jazz retired his jersey and placed a statue of him in a small plaza outside the team's arena near John Stockton Drive—a block renamed in his honor.

Those are the accolades. John built his legacy on old school constants that include everything from his in-and-out-of-season routines to the short shorts he stuck with when the league fashion tipped toward tent-sized trunks. His was a pairing of some remarkable gifts—natural speed, extraordinary court vision, outsized hands to snap off passes, a low resting heart rate, and his bottomless capacity for work, preparation, and focus.

"The shocking thing was that he could play better at every level as he went along," said his Gonzaga Prep coach, Terry Irwin, "to where he was playing with the best in the world. I don't think anyone could predict that would happen."

John’s legacy has extended beyond his retirement. He has lent his expertise to countless club and school teams and supported those that the six Stockton children belonged to. With four of his children playing in college, John and his wife, Nada, preside over Spokane’s first family of basketball players.

His purchase of a hulking shell on Hamilton Street birthed an unlikely epicenter for the game in Spokane. Raising the roof and installing the basketball floor from the old Salt Palace where he began his NBA career, he created The Warehouse, where camps, tournaments, AAU leagues, and recreational games keep the building busy year-round.

Stockton presides over an invitation-only run for some of Spokane’s best players, and as the unofficial basketball godfather, provides counsel and resources for several Gonzaga point guards. His alma mater has become a national power in both the men's and women's games.

In Hooptown, basketball and John Stockton—the game and the name—are forever intertwined.

Rick Betts

Rick Betts & Jerry Schmidt - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

In retrospect, it's easy to say that Hoopfest was too good of an idea for just one person to think of. And too big of a concept for just one group to get off the ground.

But for all the thinking that went into Spokane's centerpiece summer event, no one imagined it would grow into the Best Basketball Weekend on Earth and lure 28,000 players to the streets and upwards of a quarter-million people to downtown. That crazy explosion in popularity and the manifestation of what makes Spokane Hooptown belongs to the participants, the volunteers, and the spectators.

But none of this could have happened without the idea guys who brought it to life, Rick Betts and Jerry Schmidt, charter members of the Hooptown Hall of Fame special Hoopfest wing. Not that 3-on-3 basketball in the streets hadn't been tried. Betts and Schmidt admit they borrowed the concept from the Hoop It Up tour Betts stumbled on during a business trip to Washington, D.C., from the Gus Macker tournament in Michigan known as the original, and from a Seattle event in the old Kingdome parking lot that Betts and Schmidt attended. They both remember thinking, we will do it so much better over here. And they have. Better and much, much bigger. But that's getting ahead of the story.

The trip to D.C. in 1989 was the spark for Betts, a Lewis and Clark graduate and Spokane CPA, who took in all the rhythms—the music, the bounce of the ball, and the fun being had by kids and adults, whether they were playing or watching. With a basketball-obsessed son of his own and some background helping with Bloomsday's Corporate Cup, he sensed a possibility that would appeal to Spokane's participatory nature.

Schmidt, a Gonzaga Prep alumni whose career was in social services, started with a more specific mission. A board member of the Special Olympics, he was looking to restore $25,000 in lost revenue. He had played in the Seattle 3-on-3 and saw the makings of a good fundraiser.

Soon, they were separately making the rounds of civic organizations, unaware of each other's vision. When Schmidt was told after a meeting with the Downtown Business Association that Betts was out drumming up support for a similar event, his first reaction was, "Man, somebody's stealing my idea!"

But there was never much of a turf war. Mutual friends brought Betts and Schmidt together, and a founding committee took shape: Betts, Schmidt, Dave Jackson, Jerry Karstetter, Terry Kelly, Dennis Magner, and Rick Steltenpohl. They found a philosophical middle ground by balancing the charity aspect with the fun aspect of a basketball weekend and set about tackling the practical obstacles.


Rick Betts & Jerry Schmidt - Hooptown USA - HALL of Fame 2021

"It had to be a downtown event," Betts said, "it was the perfect venue here. You have Riverfront Park and restaurants and stores, and it's where everybody wants to be. That's really one of the secret attractions—you're playing basketball where you're not supposed to."

Hoopfest had won over the downtown merchants whose businesses would be affected. The first-year plan called for only 36 courts along three blocks of Spokane Falls Boulevard and one block each of Howard and Wall—a much more compact footprint than the Hoopfest sprawl of today. But it still had to be sold to the city, on top of managing a thousand other details like building backboards and wrangling volunteers.

At last the fun began. Entries trickled in until the weekend before the event when the total went from 40 to 512, with 65 teams being turned away. Bracketing and scheduling had to be done in days, then came the all-nighter of setting up the baskets and taping off courts.

"Now it's such a well-oiled machine that it all looks ridiculously easy," Schmidt said. "But back then, it was mostly just the organizing committee doing everything—white-collar guys who'd never driven a forklift in their lives. We expected to be done at 2 a.m. The first game is at 8, and Dave Jackson and I get to our last hoop, and it's 10 minutes to 8.

There's a team there, and they say, 'Wow, you guys are so organized—you've got this timed down to the minute.' They thought we'd planned this." On June 30, 1990, 2,009 players gathered to do the blacktop bump-and-grind. Twice that many curious spectators came downtown to watch and many wished they'd signed up.

After the dimes and dribbles settled, Betts and Schmidt and their cohorts congratulated one another and soon geared up to do it again. Bigger. Better. Tweaks, features, and improvements were made each year. Growth demanded that staff be hired. The focus, as it was at launch, remained on the quality of the event and what should continue—a reunion weekend, emphasis as much on the "fest" as on the "hoop."

They didn't just create the Best Basketball Weekend on Earth, but perhaps the best weekend in Spokane every year—when the city seems most alive, diverse, and happy.

"Five hundred teams then seemed amazing, and it was," said Betts, "it's not any more fun now than it was then. It's still just as fun."

Spokane owes a debt to Rick Betts and Jerry Schmidt—two guys with one great idea, who are now members of the Hooptown Hall of Fame.