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Naming rights for high school sports complexes?
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It was great to see the East Union High administration honor the late Peter Dalben at the school’s first Valley Oak League boys basketball game of the season on Wednesday night.
Dalben, who for years served the French Camp area on its Board of Education before the area became part of the Manteca Unified School District, would likely have loved to see East Union take on a school from a rural area that for years sent its students to Manteca’s high schools.
There – I said it.
Now I won’t feel all that bad about saying that the ceremony to honor Dalben seemed a bit forced after the interaction that school officials apparently had with the family back in November.
According to Donna Anderson (Dalben), the idea for the presentation – which coincides with the school’s 50th anniversary this year – was born out of a meeting in November where the family expressed their wishes that the court inside of Dalben Center not be named in honor of longtime Manteca Unified educator and Lancer coach Bill Stricker.
It almost seemed as if it was a “we’re sorry for offending you by asking for your blessing.”
But here’s the thing – it’s not really the place of the school’s administration to ask the family for their permission to move forward with such a plan, if one were to exist. That decision is up to the Manteca Unified Board of Education – of which the late Dalben was a member – and whatever committee they would tap in order to test the waters to see if that’s something that’s suitable.
And it’s an idea that has gained a lot of traction in certain circles within the community. Stricker, who served the East Union community for more than four decades as a teacher, basketball and tennis coach and athletic director, impacted many lives during his tenure as an educator. One of his former players went on to earn a NBA championship during his career (Scott Brooks) and eventually worked his way up the ladder to become an NBA head coach – first for the Oklahoma City Thunder and now for the Washington Wizards.
And he wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan as a player either. In his NBA career Brooks scored 3,317 points and made 287 3-point shots as a point guard despite only starting seven games during his entire professional career.
That’s just one example of hundreds of men – thousands even – that Stricker touched as a coach and an educator during his career, and when a group launched a petition four months ago, it should have been viewed as something that was beyond warranted.
It is no way disrespectful to the Dalben family to have the court that Stricker prowled for decades be named in his honor, just so long as the center that bears their family’s name remain unchanged.
One of the great stories of my youth focused on how my grandfather had a baseball field in Anderson in Northern California near Redding named in his honor. That particular field happens to be in a park that was already named after a local family, and it would have been terrible to have to hear the story about how it was suggested, but shot down by those who already had the naming rights.
At the end of the day, it’s a building that was paid for by the taxpayers of the Manteca Unified School District and the State of California, and it should be the Manteca Unified School Board who makes the decision about whether a petition organized by those in the community is valid or not. Asking the people who already have their name on the side of the building, in my opinion, was a circumvention of what should have been a simple escalation up the ladder.
It deserves to be pointed out when the issue of the size of the Dr. Robert C. Winter Gymnasium and its adjacent pool were brought up at a school board meeting, it was Winter’s son – former Manteca High School Principal Steve Winter – who said he had no problem seeing the building torn down if it meant that the school itself would have a better facility.
I realize that’s not exactly a scale comparison since nothing is being torn down here, but that only reinforces my point – it’s a simple honor being bestowed upon somebody who obviously deserves it.
For his grandchildren to not be able to point at something that played such a pivotal role in their family’s history would be, simply stated, a travesty.

Chief Obligacion
says thank you
On Thursday night Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion picked up the check for all of those who turned out for what will be the last meeting of the Manteca Tea Party Patriots at Angelano’s Restaurant.
It was a fitting gesture from the chief who has spoken to the group many times during its five-year run in the community – always proving to be a draw for people in the community that wanted to hear answers and policing in the crime in the city they call home.
And Obligacion always delivered. While it wasn’t always what people wanted to hear – social media has enabled conspiracy theories and misinformation about their activity and their mission to run rampant – he always provided those who attended with up-to-date crime statistics that spelled out exactly where things stood, and never minced words when challenged. He also never shied away from telling those who attended how he really felt about the issues they raised, even if some of his comments were “off the record.”
He didn’t have to pick up the check for the few people who chose to eat dinner at the group’s last meeting, but it was a gesture that resonated with the die-hards that stayed with the group until the end of its run.
It was classy, well-received and unannounced, and deserves to be mentioned.
Well done Chief.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.