Large in stature, endearing in presence and always with a smile on his face, you may have seen him walking up LoMo in the morning to grab a bagel at the Wolf & Kettle . And there’s a chance you’ve seen him at some of the sporting events. That man is none other than Bill Cartwright: former NBA player, three-time NBA champion as a player, and two-time champion as a coach. But most importantly, a proud University of San Francisco alumni.
As a four-year player at the Hilltop, he had a career average of 19.1 points and 10.2 rebounds. He helped the Dons to three NCAA tournament appearances, getting past the first round all three years and getting all the way to the sweet 16 in 1978 and 1979. Bill shot an efficient 58.9 percent from the field and an unheard of 73.4 percent from the charity stripe, nowadays forwards and centers that shoot free throws over 70 percent are a luxury.
After graduating from USF, Cartwright entered the NBA draft and was taken by the New York Knicks with the No. 3 overall pick. While there, he was a key player of their offense, averaging 21.7 points and 8.9 rebounds during his rookie campaign, and even earned All-Star honors. In 1988, Cartwright was traded to the Chicago Bulls where he was asked to take a lesser role offensively, but as a veteran player he understood that, “If a team is successful, then you’ll be successful,” he said. In turn Cartwright was part of one of the best teams in NBA history, and earned himself three championship rings as a player. He mentioned, “Luckily, I was able to play with some Hall of Fame guys. Later on, our general manager, Jerry Krause asked me to be one of the coaches on the staff. It was fun, it was a great ride.” As part of the coaching staff, Cartwright was able to earn two more championship rings.
Photo Credits: Left – SPORTSTALK.COM Right – USFCA.EDU
Throughout the years, Cartwright has taken multiple visits to the campus and has seen the evolution since his time here in the ‘70s. As a student, he lived in Gillson Residence Hall, and then Phelan Residence Hall. He talked about never wanting to live off campus, that he was “lazy” and enjoyed the fact that he could roll out of bed minutes before class and still make it on time. “The UC is amazing now, imagine only one line for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s how it was when I was a student.” While talking about Lo Schiavo, his excitement was evident as he raved about how beautiful the campus is now. He enjoys the rustic, historic feel of Lone Mountain, but admires how it’s completely different down on main campus.
Now, back as the Director of Initiatives, he’s been given the task to spread his love of USF and create and improve alumni relations. He breaks his role into three parts: developing relationships and strengthening the ones USF already has to create a strong alumni network, reaching out to the community — particularly the African-American and black community — to generate spirit and foster comfort, and fundraising. He’s even making it a point to go out and support businesses owned and operated by USF alumni. When he needs car body work done he goes to a shop on Geary owned by an alumni. When he’s near the downtown campus, he’ll make an effort to eat at a restaurant also owned by a USF alum. He smiles and mentions, “Why not support alumni owned businesses? That’s a great way to stay connected. Plus, if you get lucky maybe you’ll get an alumni discount.” All in all, he’s reaching out and connecting with people to create a strong alumni association and promote the University of San Francisco. “You’ll see me running around,” he said. He looks at other model alumni associations like Notre Dame and Stanford and yearns to have that for our school.
“We’re a great University. We put out leaders of the community in all different areas. Great law school, nursing school, business school. We’re in the heart of the tech world and upstart businesses. University of San Francisco, great place, great University and we gotta let everybody know,” Cartwright said.
Header Photo Credits: USFDONS.COM