The pavilion was packed full on Saturday morning of homecoming weekend as Castleton University inducted four new members into its hall of fame. The excitement was so strong you could probably hear the chatter and laughter from the crowd all the way in Glenbrook.
Four Castleton greats: soccer standout Erin Zapata ‘06, baseball record holder Chad Phillips ‘05, basketball coach Stan Van Gundy, and soccer-softball coach John Werner are now immortalized in CU’s Hall of Fame room.
And while Van Gundy, current coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, was clearly the focal point for many, it was Werner – who is battling cancer – that may have left the biggest impact.
He talked about how he ended up at Castleton and about his cancer awareness motto LINAO (Losing Is Not An Option). This motto can be found on bumper stickers online and all proceeds go to cancer awareness and research.
“I’m tremendously honored today. I’m a proud Oneonta Red Dragon, I’m a proud Arlington Eagle, and especially today I’m a very proud Castleton Spartan,” he said, choking up with emotion.
As he left the podium the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Brunch was served compliments of Huden Dining Hall and everyone was chatting and socializing before the speakers were called up.
Head women’s soccer coach Chris Chapdelaine kicked things off by introducing Zapata, who had an illustrious career here at CU capped off by the women’s team’s first ever NCAA tournament bid during her senior year.
Zapata kept her speech short, thanking her friends and family. In an interview after the event she discussed one of her most fond memories of CU.
“There was one night where we snuck onto the field and we did a power hour on the soccer field, like in the middle of the night, just like a few of us from the team,” she said.
For those who are unaware, a power hour is a drinking game friends can play together –and she assured all were over 21 when they played.
Zapata, now married with two children, is a home-care medical social worker. She still remains involved with soccer though, both as a youth coach and playing in adult leagues.
Ted Shipley, head baseball coach, introduced the next inductee, Chad Phillips. Phillips holds several records including both single season and career home run records. He was named 2004 NAC Player of the Year and finished his career with a .357 batting average.
Baseball hasn’t been a big part of his life since leaving Castleton, though. To begin his speech, he even mentioned how he hadn’t thought about baseball in a number of years. He currently produces maple syrup with his father and runs his property maintenance business in the summer.
To introduce Werner, Castleton President Dave Wolk was called up to speak. Werner was a long-time men’s soccer coach here on campus. He led the team to a .597 winning percentage including two NAC Tournament titles and two NAC Coach of the Year awards. He also coached the softball team for three seasons starting in 2009.
Van Gundy was last, and one of his former players, Chrispin White, was there to introduce him. Van Gundy, despite only coaching for three seasons, is one of the most successful coaches in school history. He led the team to a Mayflower Conference Title and the final of the NAIA District 5 playoffs. That team raked in so many wins it finished with the second-best record in all of D3 hoops that year.
Despite Van Gundy’s success, he was humble in his speech and gave a fair amount of credit to the previous head coaches, stating how many of the players on his teams were recruited by the previous coaches.
“I watched 30 minutes of a pick-up game and I said, holy shit,” he said. “We’re good.”
Since leaving Castleton he has had several college coaching positions. He has also had some professional coaching jobs with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and currently the Detroit Pistons and while many would assume his favorite coaching experiences and teams would be in the NBA, he says Castleton is his favorite team he’s coached.
His love of Castleton, as a town and university, exuded in every aspect of his speech.
“I think that what makes this place special, when I was here in the eighties, was the heart,” he said. “There was a heart and soul to this place.”
When the induction ended, the chatter started up again. The four inductees got their plaques and a quick group photo was snapped. Otherwise they were caught up in conversations with old friends or fans. At the end of the day though, everyone went home with a full stomach and probably a picture with Stan Van Gundy.