The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Athletics Department and the Office of Alumni Affairs recently announced its Class of 2009 inductees into the UTC Athletics Hall of Fame. GoMocs.com is continuing to profile each new member leading up to the Hall of Fame Dinner on Feb. 12.
Our next inductee is former men's basketball standout Gary Stich. Stich was a four-year letter winner in the Division II heyday of Chattanooga basketball from 1974-77. He was a mainstay on the Mocs teams that competed for the NCAA Division II title during his junior and senior seasons, coming away with the trophy in 1977.
Stich, a 6-8 forward, came to Chattanooga from Trinity High School Louisville, Ky. He was the MVP at Trinity his senior year and received honorable mention all-state honors. Surprisingly, Stich was one of seven Mocs on the roster from the Louisville area.
He was in a group with fellow freshmen Wayne Golden, William Gordon, Herbert McCray and Cornell Starks who all came to UTC from Louisville. They joined senior John Berry and sophomore Kevin Gray, tow other Louisville natives who joined the Mocs the year before.
"It was very strange at the beginning because half of the team was from Louisville," recalled Stich. "As the years went by we became one big family. Like in all big families you will have your arguments and jealousy but you could see and feel that each player accepted his role because we all had the same goal. That was to make it to Rocky Top."
For the Mocs in that period, "Rocky Top" was the Division II championship and Stich played a major role in getting them there.
His impact was felt immediately as he was named the "Most Improved Player" during his freshman year. Appearing in 22 games, he helped the Mocs post a 21-5 record. UTC held the No.1 national ranking for six weeks during the 1973-74 season. The television broadcast of the Dayton game marked the first ever airing of a UTC athletic event in school history.
Stich continued his improvement along with fellow classmates, Gordon and Golden. As the high-scoring guards grabbed the headlines, Stich did the dirty work down low and helped the Mocs continue to win. He had a breakout year as a sophomore, averaging 10.8 points-per-game while leading the team with 8.5 boards per contest. He had a career-high 26 points at South Florida as Chattanooga went 19-9 in 1974-75.
As a junior, Stich's numbers dipped just slightly, but the team's success nearly reached the pinnacle. Chattanooga advanced to the NCAA Division II national championship game in 1976, aided in large part by his 10.1 ppg and team-high 7.8 rebounds-per-game. The Mocs fell to Puget Sound 83-74 in the finals in Evansville, Ind., but that experience setup the championship run next season.
Stich averaged 12.0 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game during the 1976-77 title season. He played in 31 of the Mocs' 32 games, shooting 52.8% from the field and helped guide Chattanooga to a 27-5 record. He scored 24 points in a pivotal, 78-76 over Tennessee Wesleyan that sparked the final march to the tournament.
The Tennessee Wesleyan game was one of many sellouts at Maclellan Gym during Stich's career. "Big Mac was always full," he recalled. "When we would press and start to stealing the balls you could feel and feed off the extra energy that was coming from our students and fans. As the loudness increased the other teams would panic even more and would make turnover after turnover."
In the championship game against Randolph Macon, Stich stayed true to form, doing the dirty work to help the Mocs win. While the All-American Golden scored 21 points and grabbed tournament MVP honors, Stich aided a second-half comeback with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Despite being a national champion, Stich felt like just a regular student off the court. "There is not much more I can say about my athletic experience but as a student I feel like I was just like any other student who was attending UTC. I studied like everybody else, was a fan at other sporting events, and participated in extra school activities. One of these activities and great experiences was becoming a brother at the Sigma Chi Fraternity."
Following his time with the Mocs, Stich went on to a successful professional basketball career in Europe. He played in both Finland and Switzerland, and has lived in Switzerland since 1978. He started working for Abnamro Bank in 1987, but stayed involved with professional basketball as a player and coach. In October 2007, he became the oldest person to score in and A-League game in Switzerland when he hit two free throws in 4.5 minutes of action for Vacallo at the age of 52.
Stich majored in Business Education during his career at UTC and is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. He is currently an Incident Manager for IBM in Morbio Inferiore, Switzerland. He and his wife, Manuela, have two children, Michelle (17) and Michael (15).
Stich is making the trip from Switzerland for the Hall of Fame Inductions. When asked about his thoughts on getting into the UTC Athletics Hall of Fame he responded, "I would prefer to express those during my ceremonial speech but I can honestly say that I would walk a mile - or should I say fly thousands of miles - to be a part of this elite TEAM and Club."
Fans can come out and enjoy the Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony on Feb. 12, 2010, at the Chattanooga Country Club. The reception begins at 6:00 p.m. (E.S.T.) with the dinner and program starting at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to all Mocs fans with a cost of $25 per person while seating is available. Contact the Office of Alumni Affairs at (423) 425-4785 for more information or to order tickets.
The inductees and award winners will also be honored at halftime of the men's basketball game against Furman on Feb. 13. For tickets to the basketball game, call the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).