Memories

Students, coaches and fans
share their favorite memories


Dave Winn, girls varsity volleyball coach 2006-present

Dave Winn, coach of 2010, 2011 state volleyball champs

"There's just something so unique about the layout, lighting, and sound in the old gym. I used to HATE coming to Palo Alto when I coached at Los Altos. No one else has the raised bleachers, with sound that funnels and echoes in strange ways. The lighting is completely different than anyone else. The floorboards almost moan as you jump on them from decades of pounding. You feel like you're in a fishbowl. When I started coaching at Paly (eight years ago), I got a full appreciate for the tortures that the gym provides in the hot weather of the August and September pre-season. It made our athletes get pretty tough to the environment, while our unprepared opponents that came from nicely air-conditioned gyms would suffer.

"As the new gym plans are taking shape and the old gym is reaching the end of its life, it makes me reflect on all the great players that I've been fortunate enough to coach over the past eight years. So many hours spent training, planning, celebrating and recovering in that place. I always told the players that when they had a big match that secured a league title, or a CCS championship and certainly the state championships, that they could look at the banners when they returned as old grannies and tell people 'I was a part of that' with pride. Now that will have to happen in a new gym. Not quite the same of attachment or nostalgia, but the stories remain the same. I wish that they somehow could have kept the same 'old fashioned' feel to the place and just modernized the lighting and ventilation. But, the only thing constant in life is change. The new gym will give future players a chance to continue the Paly volleyball legacy and start their own stories and traditions in a new environment. I will certainly appreciate having more storage, shiny new floors and a place that more fans may want to come and watch. But, I will certainly miss the connection that the old gym has with so many of my fondest memories of a great era in Paly volleyball."

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Tanuj Chopra, right, and his younger brother, Arun, in 1995.
Tanuj Chopra, class of 1995 and member of the 1993 boys basketball state championship team, recalls the gym as a place of solace and meditation, the "refuge" in his youth.

Tanuj Chopra, class of 1995, 1993 state basketball championship team member

Tanuj Chopra was a member of Paly's history-making basketball team that snagged the state championship in 1993, upsetting Morningside 79 to 59 in the Oakland Coliseum.

But, he admits, he wasn't the greatest basketball player, and his greatest memories of the Paly gym went beyond athletics.

"This was a space that was so spiritual and so special to me," he said. "The first time I heard it was getting demolished, my heart sank."

Chopra repeatedly referred to the gym as a place of meditation and solace. He said he would often stay for hours after practice ended to shoot by himself.

"There's something about the gym, something about the meditation of shooting and being in that rotation with the ball and the ball going through the net, especially in that gym," he said. "It was such a interesting design, such a classic (design)...

"There's not a lot of high school gyms that look like that. It feels like its something out of the movie 'Hoosiers.' it could be somewhere in Indiana. There's some magic in that place."

Chopra, the son of Indian immigrants, said the gym as served as a symbolic point of access into American culture. He said he and his younger brother – who also played on the basketball team, overlapping for three years – were the first Indian-American basketball players at Paly.

"For us it was a real entry point into the culture and the country," Chopra said. "It was a big part of shaping who we were."

Chopra also developed a formative relationship with John Barrette, who coached the basketball team from 1986 to 1994. He said Barrette, a "second father in many ways," never asked him to leave the gym after-hours and would stay to tell Chopra stories.

"I didn't have this kind of figure in my life, this kind of story teller," he said "As much as I wanted to play more on the court and be in games more, the lessons he gave me off the court, the fundamental ideas about leadership that were coming through the stories (were more important).

Nate McOmber, class of 1994, recalls a night when he and his friends snuck into the gym and created their own private slam dunk-athon.

"I look back and it's more valuable than any kind of playing time or basketball-related thing," Chopra said. "Just that simple kind of connection ... something about that gym, something about my coach, something about all of it compelled me to stay there for hours and hours."

— Elena Kadvany

 

 

Becky Brewer, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
Posted on Town Square, Feb 26, 2014 at 3:07 p.m.

"We have many fond memories of the Paly Gym but the one that will be with us forever will be the memorial service for our son, Travis Brewer. He loved everything about Paly sports. It meant so much to our family that we could celebrate his life at the gym with all of the people that he loved and loved him. Thank you, The Brewer Family"

 

 

Herman, a resident of another community
Posted on Town Square, Feb 27, 2014 at 8:43 a.m.

"How about Oregon's Senior Senator Ron Wyden and the late Charlie Johnson (NBA and Cal star) of Sequoia's epic back and forth battle in the let 60's - packed house, league title, scoring championship. One of the greatest Bay Area high school games!"

 

 

Pete Pitsker, class of 1950, talks about a certain dare he and his basketball teammates used to challenge each other to in the gym.

Sherry Bijan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
Posted on Town Square, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.

"I always feared this day would come. Nursing the same sick feeling as when the Stanford stadium came down. The sentimental in me wishes we could somehow save the shell, the wooden bleachers, and the original hardwood floors and build around it. Suppose though in the end, its demise aligns with Earl's retirement, and alas a new chapter @ Paly begins."

 

 

David Zeisler, a resident of Midtown
Posted on Town Square, Feb 27, 2014 at 1:59 p.m.

"I have done the shotclock for more than 10 years in the gym. I did the shotclock for Jeremy Lin and the 2005-2006 boys basketball state title team. I have worked in the gym for more than 10 years. I will miss the gym a lot. I also went to Paly."