Former Cal football coach Mike White called it, “the biggest secret in the history of college athletics.”
Even White didn’t know during the fall of 1976 that Joe Roth, his All-America quarterback, was playing out his senior season while battling an aggressive strain of malignant melanoma. By February 1977, just 21 years old, Roth was dead.
Roth’s remarkable tale — the way he lived and the way he died — unfolds in “Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story,” a documentary film five years in the making by Cal grads Phil Schaaf and Bob Rider.
The 85-minute film, which made its debut in April at the Newport Film Festival, had its first Bay Area showing Wednesday night in front of about 300 Cal fans at Memorial Stadium.
The home crowd — including his former coach and a handful of ex-teammates — watched as Roth arrived in Berkeley from Grossmont junior college, became almost an overnight star who won friends with his low-key charm, then silently labored through his final painful months.
“In the end it has nothing to do with the sport,” Schaaf said. “Instead, it’s about humam elegance in the face of unfathomable adversity. In Joe’s case, it’s against this backdrop of athletic greatness.”
Former Cal star Justin Cobbs got off the bench and into the game for the first time Tuesday during NBA summer league play in Orlando, Florida.
Cobbs played nine minutes and contributed two points and an assist to the Memphis Grizzlies’ 80-73 win over Orlando. Cobbs, who did not play in the Grizzlies’ first two games, shot 1 for 3 and also had a steal and a turnover.
For the third straight game, Richard Solomon did not play for the Houston Rockets in their 92-71 loss to Philadelphia.
Earl Robinson, one of Cal’s greatest two-sport athletes, died Friday at the age of 77 after a long illness.
Robinson, who starred in basketball and baseball in the late 1950s, was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988. He was voted into the Pac-10 Hall of Honor in 2010 and a year later received the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award, which is presented to the Cal men’s basketball alumnus who upholds the highest ideals of Coach Newell and the University of California.
Robinson was modest in his acceptance of the Newell award.
“When they talk about an achievement award, you must remember that you never do this by yourself,” Robinson said. “It’s because of so many people. It is you that I share this award with. I am humbled by this award. You, the fans, supported us – I don’t care whether Wilt Chamberlain came in here, the great Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Elgin Baylor or whoever it might be. It was your support that made us feel that we could always compete. And so I accept this award in your honor.”
A graduate of Berkeley High, Robinson was a 6-foot-1 guard on the basketball team, helping Cal to conference titles in 1956, ’57 and ’58. He was twice an All-Coast selection and three times was named to the All-Pacific Coast Conference team.
Former Cal stars Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon never got off the bench Saturday as their NBA teams made their season debuts in the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Cobbs was signed this week to a summer-league contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, who beat Oklahoma City 84-63.
Solomon is with the Houston Rockets, who lost 95-89 to Detroit.
Jorge Gutierrez, who won Pac-12 Player of the Year honors for Cal in 2012, had eight points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal in Brooklyn’s 101-81 win over Indiana. Gutierrez played the latter portion of the 2014-14 NBA regular season with the Nets.
Former Cal forward Richard Solomon signed a summer league contract with the Houston Rockets.
The 6-foot-10 Solomon led the Pac-12 in rebounding at 10.2 per game while also averaging 11.0 rebounds. He was among just three players in the six power conferences to average a double-double.
Solomon and the Rockets begin play in the Orlando summer league on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons.
Solomon’s signing came one day after former Golden Bears teammate Justin Cobbs was signed by the Memphis Grizzlies. The two will face each other when Houston meets Memphis on July 10.
Former Cal point guard Justin Cobbs has signed to play for the Memphis Grizzles in the NBA summer league in Orlando, Fla.
Cobbs, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection as a senior this past season, will debut with the Grizzlies on Saturday against the Miami Heat. The team will play five games, which can be seen on NBA TV.
BTW, I’m back from vacation. You cover college sports and you figure June is a safe month to be away. Go figure.
I visited the Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland on Wednesday to talk with ex-Cal star Justin Cobbs, who was among six NBA draft hopefuls who worked out in front of club officials.
Here’s my story on how Cobbs and former Saint Mary’s College guard Stephen Holt are faring in the leadup to the June 26 NBA draft.
Cobbs also said he and his Cal teammates were completely surprised when coach Mike Montgomery announced his retirement after the season.
Linebacker Chris McCain signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins, making him the sixth former Cal player to land a spot with an NFL team since the draft two weekends ago.
McCain played two-plus seasons at Cal before being dismissed from the program for conduct detrimental to the team after four games of his 2013 junior campaign.
He finished his collegiate career with 90 tackles, 14.5 tackles for 50 yards in lost yardage, 5.0 sacks, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 24 games played and 18 starts.
McCain’s top season came as a 2012 sophomore when he was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection.
McCain is the fourth ex-Cal player to either sign or agree to terms as a free agent with an NFL team. Running back Brendan Bigelow (Tampa Bay), cornerback Kameron Jackson (Indianapolis) and defensive tackle Deandre Coleman Jacksonville) previously did so.
Tight end Richard Rodgers (Green Bay) and linebacker Khairi Fortt (New Orleans) were selected in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, of the NFL draft.
Cal grad and Olympian Magdalena Lewy Boulet finished 28th among women in the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Boulet covered the 26.1-mile course in 2 hours, 33 minutes, 13 seconds. At age 40, she was third in her age group.
Ex-Cal star Jorge Gutierrez got his first playing time in an NBA game, contributing one point and a steal in five minutes of the Brooklyn Nets’ 104-89 win over the Sacramento Kings.