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Jack Avina

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Jack Avina Obituary
Jack Francis Avina

January 30, 1929

On October 4th, 2018, Jack Avina, passed away, in the presence of his family, at the age of 89. He was born in 1929 as the third of seven children in Madera, California. Jack's father died when he was a boy and to help make ends meet, Jack worked various jobs, acquiring a discipline and commitment that served him life-long. Enlisting in the Navy at 17, Jack later attended San Jose State University where he met his wife, Claire McCallum with whom he spent 57 happy years.

Jack was a true humanitarian with excellence in sports being his method of choice for mentoring youth in the USA and globally. As a player and as coach, Jack always stressed how hard work, diligence and teamwork make us all better people, both on and off the court.

From an established position as one of the most successful basketball coaches in the California Junior College circuit, in 1970, he accepted the challenge of bringing the struggling University of Portland basketball team into sports prominence. Over his 17 year career there, he acquired the title "Jack the Giant Killer" with his scrappy, under-funded teams knocking off established programs nation-wide. The University of Portland's Chiles Center, opened in the mid 1980's, was affectionately called, "the house that Jack built" in reference to his success as a coach and fund-raiser. He retired from the University of Portland in 1987 with 223 wins and seven players selected into the NBA.

His commitment to his players and their families was paramount. For him, one of his greatest points of pride was the percentage of graduating athletes on his teams--one of the highest in Division I basketball nationwide. He mentored many of his players well beyond their college years.

Jack also spent his life helping spread the sport world-wide. He worked for years in collaboration with the US Government's, "Partners in America" program training coaches in Latin America. He twice coached the Japanese Olympic team and supported the US 1984 Olympic team. He also coached at the professional level for Galatasaray in Turkey and Belo Horizonte in Brazil. He also coached the U.S. team in the World University Games.

Jack was a man of firsts - the first Mexican-American from his home town to earn college degrees and the first Latino coach elected to the Executive Board of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). He was always the first to lend a helping hand to those in need, the first to recognize the kernel of potential and excellence in others and the first to challenge and demand the best for and from all people, from all walks of life.

Jack leaves behind a shining legacy as a son, loving husband, father, mentor, coach and leader. He was fearless in his pursuit of excellence and doing what was right for others, no matter the cost. Loyalty and honor were the maxims in his creed. The tributes from those who knew him best speak for themselves. Upon his departure from University of Portland, the faculty acknowledged Jack with an award stating, "We wish to recognize you for your dedication to the highest standards of integrity and honesty in college athletics. Your commitment to the athletic and academic excellence of your student athletes is deeply appreciated by us". Jack kept this in his office throughout his post-UP career.

Jack was preceded in death by his devoted wife, Claire Avina, and is survived by his 6 children, and a bevy of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Please join the family on November 11, 2018 at 1 p.m. at the Riverside Golf and Country Club at 8105 NE 33rd Dr. in Portland to celebrate Jack's life and achievements.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made in Jack's name to or Hospice of the East Bay.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 14, 2018
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