Dave Yanai: Toros Basketball Court Named as Tribute to Former Men’s Head Coach; Endowed Scholarship for Student-Athletes Established
When Dave Yanai began coaching the men’s basketball team at California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1977, the young institution – which had recently transformed from being a state college into a university – was notable for the commitment of its faculty and administration to educating its students.
“Everyone rolled up their sleeves and got together in the job of supporting young people,” the Gardena native recalls. “It was a labor of love that faculty members gave extra time to help the [student-athletes] focus on academics. For me, I always felt that in coaching basketball, the gymnasium was my classroom.”
Yanai left CSU Dominguez Hills in 1997 and went on to CSU Los Angeles, where he continued his coaching career until his retirement four years ago. However, his legacy as a coach and an educator in Carson will continue with the naming of the CSU Dominguez Hills basketball court as the “Dave Yanai Court,” as well with the establishment of an endowed scholarship for students on both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
A graduate of CSU Long Beach and former member of the 49ers basketball team, Yanai looks forward to supporting student-athletes in the basketball program at CSU Dominguez Hills through the scholarship.
“I’m just so happy that some lucky person is going to benefit from the scholarship being available,” he says. “The most important thing that comes out of this court naming is that [the scholarship] will go to youngsters who are very deserving.”
During Yanai’s 19 seasons at CSU Dominguez Hills, his Toro teams advanced to the 1981, 1987 and 1989 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournaments. In addition, he guided the Toros to the 1979 NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) National Elite Eight after winning the NAIA District III Championship in only his second year at the university. He was named the 1979 District Coach of the Year, 1987 NCAA West Region Coach of the Year and twice the CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Association) Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1988.
Yanai also coached 34 All-CCAA Conference players, two CCAA Athletes of the Year, eight NCAA All-West Region selections, two NCAA All-Americans and one NCAA Division II Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in John Nojima, a former Rhodes Scholar. A living legend in the South Bay sports community, Yanai ended his coaching career with 287 of his 401 total wins in Carson, making him the coach with the most wins in CSU Dominguez Hills men's basketball history.
Yanai says that involvement in sports is a good way for students to prepare for “real world” situations, personally and on the job.
“Being involved in athletics is a microcosm of life,” he says. “You have moments of exhilaration when you have some important wins. Then you have moments of devastation when you have setbacks or take a hard loss. Young people are going to have to handle both, winning with grace and losing with great sportsmanship.”
Yanai also underscored the lessons of teamwork that student-athletes will benefit from when embarking on their chosen careers.
“On a basketball team, it’s very important to have the individual players sacrifice and understand the word ‘unselfishness,’” he notes. “Working for a common cause is something you would do in a job environment. You have to do your share to help the [organization] succeed.”
Yanai says that as a player and a coach he has had several mentors, including former Gardena Mayor Mas Fukai, former deputy to L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who coached in Gardena’s youth leagues, UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden, Pete Newell, the one-time basketball coach at UC Berkeley, community member George Sho Nojima (John Nojima's father), and Yanai’s older brother, Frank. He credits their guidance with encouraging him to work with young people.
“They were very important in my life as they influenced me as a coach and a human being,” Yanai says.
When asked what he hopes is the one thing his players took away from playing basketball for him, Yanai says that he hopes that “they would be better people.”
“[I hope] they would grow as human beings beyond their basketball skills,” he says. “I’m thinking of the human qualities of being unselfish, of caring for others, understanding the importance of trusting others. These are qualities you strive for as you develop a team. I think those are qualities that are very important to us in our lives as human beings. Basketball was a wonderful atmosphere to teach young people about these things.”
For information on the Dave Yanai Court Tribute and Scholarship Fund, click here.
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Coach Dave Yanai (at center) with former players and colleagues at a tribute dinner held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club last October.
Courtesy of Mel Miranda