Sunday, March 1, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Marietta Hamilton: Always an Aggie

By
December 23, 2010 |

Enterprise Staff Writer

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She\’s the guardian angel of the Aggie basketball program.

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When an athlete, coach or administrator needs that almost-divine guidance, they don\’t have far to look — go up about seven rows, midcourt at The Pavilion.

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There you\’ll find Marietta Hamilton.

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If the name is familiar, it\’s because the UC Davis basketball matriarch is the widow of former coach Bob Hamilton, the guy who put the Aggie men on the collegiate map.

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Marietta, 15 years after Ham\’s death, remains a fixture at The Pavilion. She rarely misses a game — men or women — and her influence, past and present is felt in every pass of the

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basketball.

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“I have so many friends,” Marietta explains. “I go to the games with different ones … there\’s usually somebody to call. I rarely go alone.”

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Since arriving in Davis in 1963, she\’s been involved in rooting on the Aggies, providing shelter and meals for players and being someone to fall back on when things aren\’t going the right way.

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“At Thanksgiving it was always fun,” Hamilton remembers. “Our guest list would get longer by

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the day. Bob would call and say \’so-and-so is coming Thursday.\’ Then the next day, he\’d add a

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couple more names.

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“Players that weren\’t home for the holidays were usually at our house.”

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Bob Hamilton, who died at age 73 in 1995 (two days before the school was to have dedicated Hamilton Court at The Pavilion), coached at UCD for more than 25 years before moving on to

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Yuba College. He coached until the week he passed away.

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Marietta Hamilton cherished those years and stays connected with her husband\’s former

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players, coaches and even opponents.

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“It\’s so rewarding when one of his players calls, or comes by to say \’hi\’ at the games,” Marietta continues. “I love it.”

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————

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The Hamiltons met in Eugene, Ore.

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Marietta Wheeler had just moved from Port Orchard, Wash., to be near her mom in Florence.

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“Mom was a gypsy … well, really a teacher,” Hamilton chuckled. “But it seemed like every so often she\’d say: \’We\’re going somewhere else, and off we went.

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“When we were in Port Orchard, I was a junior in high school and mom said we were moving to Oregon …

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“I said \’Oh, no, we\’re not!”

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Marietta stayed in Washington to finish her senior year while her mom set up shop outside of Eugene.

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Once reunited, the young Wheeler was introduced to a former University of Oregon basketball player who ran his own doughnut shop. The personable, almost flamboyant, guy was also a coach and semi-professional player. His name … Well, you get the picture.

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“It was a blind date. Obviously, it went well,” Hamilton remembers.

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For almost a decade, Bob Hamilton had coached high school basketball, was an assistant at Oregon and in 1962 was head coach for the Canadian National Team.

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Eventually married and blessed with a daughter, Shana, the Hamiltons visited the nomadic Mrs. Wheeler, now in Palo Alto.

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“That was 1963. While we were down here, a friend told us that UCD was looking for a coach. It was cross country and assistant varsity basketball,” Marietta says, again laughing. “We almost didn\’t come here.”

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Hamilton remembers it being 110 degrees in the shade: “Just horrible. I told Bob before he left for the interview, we\’re not moving here. Don\’t sign the contract.”

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With little Shana in tow, Marietta waited patiently at a downtown restaurant (owned by the late George Belenis, who would become best friends of the Hamiltons).

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“When he came back, I knew,” Hamilton continued, shaking her head.

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“You signed the contract, didn\’t you?” she accused him, not knowing it was to be the best move of their lives.

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————

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“She really has been an absolute angel to me … and so many others,” current Aggie women\’s basketball coach Sandy Simpson explains.

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Simpson, who played for Hamilton (1976-77), says Marietta Hamilton — as well as coach Ham — “have been huge influences in my life and coaching style.”

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“When you come to Davis as a freshman, you think you have the world dialed in … but quickly it can become a scary proposition. Hamilton became that mom away from home for us. She never judged how you played. There was always unqualified support for (you). From the beginning she was able to supply comfort to so many.”

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Simpson says, especially since he\’s been married, that he\’s come to appreciate more the role of a coach\’s spouse and “know even more” about what Rietta (as her close pals call her) meant to her husband and his success.

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“To me, she\’s always been a calming influence,” Simpson continued. “While playing for Bob, who was a great Xs and Os coach, you learned a lot of life\’s lessons. Things he taught might not kick in for five, 10, 20 years … kind of a time-release coach. But he made you a better person.

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“That said, impossible as it sounds, she (was) his better half.”

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Simpson, who is retiring after 14 years at the Aggie helm “to spend more time with his family,” was inspired by Rietta.

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“It didn\’t matter how you were doing, there she was with kind words and a pat on the back.”

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Both Simpson and former Associate Athletic Director Larry Swanson — current voice of the Aggie women concur about Hamilton\’s 2010 presence.

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“She is a key ingredient of our program,” Swanson says. “One of the best ambassadors of Aggie basketball. I admire her highly and am proud to count her as a very close friend.

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“She is one of the most important people in both programs.”

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————

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Hamilton\’s day job revolved around medical-industry administration. But it didn\’t get in the way of supporting her beloved Aggies.

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She missed two games in her husband\’s tenure and, like she said, rarely misses either men\’s or women\’s games these days.

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The ageless Hamilton won\’t discuss years — “I\’m forever 39. I\’m touchy about my age” — and stays busy, although life is a little more leisurely.

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No road trips. The Thanksgiving table is shorter and, after a rewarding second career at the Davis Chamber of Commerce, Rietta is catching up with old acquaintances.

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Shana\’s been married to Sacramento City College Athletic Director Mitch Campbell for 20 years (yes, Campbell played for Ham) and runs her own business, Neat Interiors. Mom and daughter are frequently in those midcourt seats.

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Hamilton is a three-time president of Soroptimist International of Greater Davis and gets offers from former colleagues and friends to go back to work. But every winter, basketball puts everything else on the back burner.

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She just finished compiling a book of her mother\’s Philippine letters (written when mom was teaching there).

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“They are beautiful, story-telling letters,” Marietta says.

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Now, she\’s putting together her husband\’s memorabilia.

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“Bob\’s legacy?” Marietta repeats a question. Thinking back brings tears.

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“Sorry…

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“His legacy was that so many of his players went on to become good men … became professionals and were good fathers, husbands.

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“You know, only two of his four-year players didn\’t graduate?”

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We know. And it shouldn\’t surprise Marietta Hamilton why that was.

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