Bruce Coldren, a sharpshooting basketball forward who brought glory to his hometown of Goleta and the University of Oregon, died on July 12. He was 67 and lived near Lowell, Oregon, where he had retired as an administrator at the local high school.
It was 50 years ago — on March 13, 1971 — that Coldren, a Dos Pueblos High junior, gave a command performance in the CIF AAA championship game at the L.A. Sports Arena. He scored 25 points and collected 16 rebounds as the Chargers throttled Bellflower, 49-40, the final act of a historic 27-2 season. Coldren was a unanimous All-CIF selection, and as a senior he was again All-CIF in the AAAA division.
“Bruce was the greatest player to come out of Dos Pueblos,” said Sal Rodriguez. “He shouldn’t be forgotten.” Rodriguez was director of the Goleta Boys Club and remembered Coldren as one of the “gym rats” who inhabited the building before and during their high school years.
“The Boys Club was my playground,” Coldren said in a message when he was inducted into the Santa Barbara Court of Champions in 2015.
During his sophomore year at Oregon, Coldren picked a time to shine in what has been heralded as the Ducks’ greatest victory of the era, a 56-51 upset of UCLA. The 6′8″ forward burned the pressing Bruins’ defense by sinking 12 of 14 shots from the floor, hitting jumpers from the wings, for 24 points.
“Bruce was one of the best outside shooters I’ve ever been affiliated with,” said Doug Little, who had been a CIF Player of the Year at San Marcos High and teamed up with Coldren for a year at Oregon.
Those Oregon teams were known as the “Kamikaze Kids,” coached by hard-driving Dick Harter. “Our practices were very difficult,” Little said. “Bruce made it through four years. That says a lot.”
On the Mad Hoops website recenlty, former Seattle Times sports columnist Bud Withers reminisced on the Oregon-UCLA game: “Coldren’s performance that late-season day in ’74 stands as the most incandescent of the Harter coaching era, one that, for its thunderous impact, seemed to rise above all the others.”
Coldren did not try to capitalize on his fame, settling to become a coach at Lowell and living in the small town of Fall Creek. “I’m not a ‘limelight’ guy,” he told Withers. “Never have been.”
He was unable to appear at the Court of Champions induction dinner in 2015. Reggie Coldren, his father, accepted the award on his behalf. “He is the one who helped develop me as a person and player,” Coldren said of his father. “He made sure I was always headed in the right direction and sacrificed to make sure I made it to basketball camps.”
Reggie Coldren, 91, said his son suddenly “died too young” of a heart blockage. Bruce is also survived by his wife, Karen; daughter, Jamie; and son, Ryan.