As chaplains for the men's and women's basketball teams, Fathers Dave Anderson and Natch Ohno bring encouragement and more
Dave Anderson, S.J., extends a hand and words of encouragement to men's basketball players in the locker room this past season.
A couple of years ago, alumni
chaplain Dave Anderson,
S.J., was walking back to
his office after visiting an
alumnus near campus when the spirit
moved him to take a detour to the
Connolly Center. There he sought out
the men's basketball coach and asked
if the team would be interested in
having a Jesuit as team chaplain.
The idea had actually been on Father
Anderson's mind for awhile. As an
undergraduate at Gonzaga University,
he'd observed Father Tony Lehman
taking a seat as chaplain alongside the
players and coaches at men's basketball
games. "What it said to me," says
Anderson, "was that the Jesuits are involved
in all aspects of students' lives."
At Seattle University, Anderson was
welcomed onto the basketball team.
Later in that first season, when the
Redhawks played the University of
Washington, Anderson had occasion
to meet Cameron Dollar, then assistant
coach for the Huskies. Dollar
would be introduced as SU's new head
coach a month later, and one of his
very fi rst orders of business was to ask
Anderson to continue on as chaplain.
The Jesuit enthusiastically re-upped.
Natch Ohno, S.J., provides support and more as the chaplain for women’s basketball. Like Father Anderson,
Father Ohno is often seen on the sidelines at SU’s home games.
A similar arrangement would soon
be made on the women's side. Not
long after Joan Bonvicini was hired as
SU's head coach of women's basketball
in 2009, she found herself at a staff
meeting, sitting next to Natch Ohno,
S.J., assistant to the vice president for
Student Development. Father Ohno
asked Bonvicini if there was anything
the Jesuit community could do for
the team. "Without missing a beat,
she said, 'Well, I want a Jesuit on the
bench,'" Ohno recalls. He checked
with his rector, and it was decided he
would join the team.
What exactly does it mean to be
team chaplain? There is no playbook,
and both Jesuits are careful to clarify
what was expected of them. Ohno says
Coach Bonvicini told him that he was a
member of the team and that he could
be as involved as he wanted to be. One
of the people with whom Anderson
conferred, Assistant Athletic Director
Eric Guerra, suggested that the
team chaplain's role was to provide
"presence and support."
In addition to their game-related
duties, which for Ohno range from
leading the prayer before tip-off to
providing gum and mints to the injured
players on the bench, both chaplains
make it to nearly every practice.
"It is great to have a Jesuit priest
work so closely with our program,"
says Coach Dollar. "Father Anderson
is a key part of helping us fulfill our
mission and develop holistically."
Any doubts Anderson may have
had about his value to the team
were put to rest last fall. It was a
busy time for the team, which was
gearing up for its first season with
a full Division I schedule, as well
as for Anderson personally. He had
been on the road quite a bit, visiting
alumni who were dealing with life threatening
situations. One evening,
Dollar called his chaplain to check
in. Anderson recalls the conversation:
"I asked Coach Dollar how he was
doing, and he said, 'I'm doing fine,
but we're missing one of our coaches.'
I said, 'Oh really, what happened?' He
replied, 'Well, where've you been?'"
Bonvicini is similarly grateful for
Ohno's presence. "Father Natch is a
settling force in the locker room and on
the bench," she says, "and we defi nitely
look to him for inspiration and advice.
What he does for our program is a lot
more than just basketball. He helps
bring us all together."
Ohno came to his role as chaplain
as a self-described casual basketball
fan. For his part, the 6-foot-2-inch
Anderson played basketball in high
school—a forward with a decent outside
shot. Having a high basketball IQ
can be something of a mixed blessing.
Anderson frequently has to remind himself
to refrain from offering coaching
pointers to the players because that's
not allowed by the NCAA. He's also
had to work at laying off the referees.
But once a victory is sealed, the
chaplain revels in the moment. "I'm
pretty sure Father Anderson was the
first person to run onto the court after
we won the game at the buzzer at
Portland State," says men's forward
Ohno also knows his way around a
postgame celebration, even if his manner
is a little more restrained. "My
favorite memory of Father Natch,"
says Bonvicini, "is when we finally
earned our first win of the season. He
and I walked arm-in-arm out of the
gym together, celebrating the joy of the
Asked if he ever prays for a win,
Anderson laughs before saying, "I
don't think God works that way."
Diana Chamorro of SU Athletics contributed to this story.
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