Seventy-year-old Pat Cavataio has still got game. When he steps onto the basketball court, younger players often make foolish assumptions about their silver-haired opponent. Once Cavataio sinks a few 3-pointers with nothing but net, their doubt turns to respect. "Then it's game on," Cavataio says with a grin.
At area pickup games, Cavataio is famous for his pump fake and fade-away jump shot. "The game has become more physical," he explains. "The athletes are bigger and stronger, but if I couldn't be competitive I wouldn't be out there."
At Lincoln High School in San Jose, Cavataio was a triple threat in baseball, basketball and football. While stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, Cavataio excelled at all three for the Army, earning a European basketball championship in 1962. Back home, he played baseball and football at San Jose City College, where he experienced one of his less triumphant gridiron moments. "I played defensive safety and spent a game trying to tackle O.J. Simpson at San Francisco City College. He scored six touchdowns and we lost 48-6."
In 1967 Cavataio signed a baseball contract with the Philadelphia Phillies as a catcher assigned to Class-A Spartanburg, S.C. At the age of 24, with a batting average of .333, Cavataio was hit by a pitch and broke his temple bone. "I had to have surgery and was out six weeks," he recalls. "When I came back, I requested a helmet with ear flaps, the only one in the minors, but I wasn't the
It was a critical turning point with lessons for all young athletes. "Athletes need to have a backup plan," Cavataio advises. "A small minority will never make it to the big leagues. Even if you sign a professional contract, an education or vocational program is critical. I thought I was going to be a major leaguer, but I got injured. I was lucky I ever got to play."
Cavataio earned his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado and spent three decades teaching junior high and high school. He is well-known for leading college planning workshops at Santa Cruz High, helping students pursue their own dreams. But Cavataio never hung up his basketball shoes. Along with playing, he officiated at high schools and junior colleges, and even spent two years as an NCAA referee for the Pac 8.
Today Cavataio is grateful for his continued success on the hardwood. "I enjoy playing with the younger guys," he says. "I love that it's intergenerational."
And that fade-away jump shot doesn't hurt.
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Getting To Know
Born: 1942 in San Jose
Education: Bachelor of Arts (1969) and Master of Science (1973) from San Jose State University, doctorate (1976) from the University of Northern Colorado
Family: Wife Georganne Schroth-Cavataio, a semi-retired teacher currently working as a mentor with the New Teacher Project
Santa Cruz connection: Cavataio moved to Santa Cruz in 1977 after years of family visits. 'I loved to come to Santa Cruz as a child. We would fish off the wharf and for a nickel we would stay in the fun house for hours at a time.'
Memorabilia: Among Cavataio's plentiful sports photos, clippings and mementos, is his original contract with the Phillies as well as a signed baseball card contract with Topps Chewing Gum.
What's cooking: 'My parents owned the Bungalow Bakery at Ninth and William in San Jose, where I learned how to cook and bake. I make a mean cheesecake and a fabulous cioppino with lobster, scallops, prawns and crab.'
Most admired person ('in addition to my wife'): 'I have tremendous admiration for John Daugherty. He has served as a commissioner on the Santa Cruz County Commission on Disabilities for many years. He's an advocate for making Santa Cruz more accessible to people of all ages and abilities.'
A shout-out: 'Community colleges have faced financial uncertainly for several years. I'd like to give thanks to local businesses, including Toyota of Santa Cruz, Ocean Honda, Mollie's Country Café, and B&B Small Engine Repair for their ongoing support of the Cabrillo College men's basketball program.'
Favorite quote: 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' -- Maya Angelou