Bud Nameck, the Spokane sportscaster who does the radio play-by-play for Washington State basketball, got to know Dan Fitzgerald when Nameck was a baseball player at Santa Clara and Fitzgerald an assistant basketball coach back in the ’70s.
From that relationship grew a way for Nameck to honor the late Fitzgerald, and it takes place this weekend in Spokane – a high school basketball tournament named The Fitz. It features four Spokane-area high schools but also Kelso and Camas, and there’s interest in drawing Puget Sound-area teams in future years.
Fitz, as he was popularly known, died at 67 of a heart attack early in 2010. He was actually the reluctant architect of the Gonzaga basketball success story, hiring Dan Monson, Mark Few and Bill Grier in a head-coaching career that went from 1978 to 1997.
Nameck, who has organized the tournament, did basketball and football games on the campus radio station at Santa Clara, where he came to know Fitzgerald, one of the true characters in his profession. After Fitz got the Gonzaga job, Nameck came to Spokane to work in broadcasting and eventually was sports-information director briefly at Gonzaga. He did GU basketball radio play-by-play during John Stockton’s freshman year.
“So many good things have happened in my life up here,” Nameck said, recalling Fitz’s initial attempt to hire him away from the Bay Area as SID at Gonzaga (Nameck turned him down). “Dan was the kind of person who would do anything for anybody. When he passed away, I wanted to do something to try to continue his legacy.”
Thus this week’s eight-team tournament. The Spokane teams are Lewis and Clark, Shadle Park, Mead and Cheney, to be joined by Richland, West Valley of Yakima, Camas and Kelso. All games are at Lewis and Clark High. There’s also a tipoff banquet at Northern Quest Resort and Casino Thursday night, with guest speaker Carroll Williams, one of Fitzgerald’s mentors and a longtime college basketball coach.
Proceeds will benefit Spokane Boys and Girls Club and a Fitz scholarship fund at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose. For more information, call Cajer Neeley at (509) 227-5409.