Basketball Hero
Bickerstaff receives WCC Honor
by Ryan T. Blystone
PHOTO BY Ron Hoskins

ernie Bickerstaff has a wife, five children and six grandchildren. But his devotion to basketball is fervent enough to make the sport an honorary member of the family.

The 1968 University of San Diego graduate — a Toreros point guard from 1964 to 1966 and head coach from 1969 to 1973 — maintains his passion for the game by working as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls.

He helped first-year head coach Vinny Del Negro and the team earn an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Bickerstaff’s new position is yet another chapter in his 35-year affiliation with the NBA.

But Bickerstaff hasn’t forgotten his college roots. He was recently selected as USD’s representative for the inaugural class of the West Coast Conference’s Hall of Honor, and was inducted during March’s WCC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas. The Toreros were an NCAA Division II program when Bickerstaff played and were coached by Phil Woolpert, for whom Bickerstaff served as an assistant and ultimately replaced as head coach. He was a senior captain and most valuable player in 1966, leading the Toreros in rebounding that season. As USD’s coach, Bickerstaff posted a 55-49 record, capped by a 19-9 record in 1972-73.

He’s been an NBA head coach with Seattle, Denver and Washington, and has 415 victories under his belt. In 2004, Bickerstaff was hired as the first coach and general manager of the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. He was inducted into USD’s Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994.

“Bernie Bickerstaff represents the best of our student-athletes, coaches and alumni of the University of San Diego athletics,” says Ky Snyder, USD’s executive director of athletics. “As a student-athlete he was a leader and top achiever. As a coach, he elevated our program. As an alumnus he has supported his alma mater and has connected other alumni to their careers in the NBA.”