Ultimate Fan a hero to generations of Oregonians

Ultimate Fan a hero to generations of Oregonians
In this Dec. 18, 1996 file photo, longtime University of Portland golf coach and basketball fan Mauro Potestio describes his passion for attending college basketball games in his office at the university in Portland, Ore. After attending 898 consecutive home games over 62 years, Potestio missed the game against Gonzaga on Feb. 3, 2011 because he was too ill. He died two days later at age 86. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Doug Beghtel)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — When the Portland Pilots hosted Gonzaga before a sellout crowd earlier this month there was one notable absence.

Mauro Potestio had been to 898 consecutive home games on The Bluff, as the Catholic university in north Portland is known.

Known as a snappy dresser who always wore a bow tie, the Pilots' superfan missed the game against the Bulldogs because he was too ill. He died two days later on Feb. 5 at age 86.

To honor him, current Pilots coach Eric Reveno, his assistants and Portland fans will don bow ties when the team hosts San Francisco on Thursday night.

"He represented so much of the institution, in so many different ways," Reveno said. "He connected generations of University of Portland fans, and employees and coaches and students. ... It's not about the building or the bell tower. It's about the people. And he was one of those special people."

Potestio's streak of games spanned 62 years, starting with a 53-48 victory over Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 8 1949. It ended with an 85-70 victory over No. 24 St. Mary's on Jan. 29. Over the years he also attended 256 road games.

In January, Potestio was honored with the "Ultimate Fan Award" at the annual Oregon Sports Awards ceremony. His son, Phil, helped him navigate the stage at Nike headquarters in his wheelchair.

"I've had a lifelong investment in the University of Portland," he told the Portland Tribune newspaper. "I wouldn't call it a hobby, but a true devotion to the Pilots."

Potestio attended the University of Portland after serving in the Army during World War II. He went on to a long career in education — he served as principal at Orient Elementary School for 30 years — but remained active on The Bluff, particularly in the athletic department.

His jobs for the Pilots ranged from scorekeeper to sports information director. He was even the golf coach from 1988-2001, leading the Pilots to the West Coast Conference championship in 1993.

Munz, as his family and friends called him, started wearing bow ties in the 1950s because his idol, Frank Sinatra, wore them at the time.

The night the Pilots played Gonzaga and Mauro wasn't there, a video of him receiving the ultimate fan award was shown on a video scoreboard. Fans in the student section responded by chanting "You're our hero!"

"He saw a lot of ups and downs throughout the years," Reveno said. "He had a dry wit about him and he'd talk about all he'd seen. He was a nice old guy to talk to, but he had a perspective on things, too. I'd see him in my first couple of years and we were losing a bunch of games and he would say, 'You're doing good and the kids are great.' He was just really fun to talk to."

Potestio died of cancer. He is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild. His funeral was held last Saturday.

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.