The Law ‘Round These Parts

Matt Duffy must have missed his senior salute during Saturday's game. You can still wish him well at [email protected].

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Dennis Gates brought his hard-working self and the nickname "The Sheriff" to Berkeley in 1998.

Unfortunately, he'll be leaving town soon, taking with him two degrees, a nice collection of floor burns and some of the best defense ever seen around these parts.

Yep, in his time, that Sheriff played as hard as coach could ask of a fellow, and went out riding a career- and game-high 17-point performance into his last home sunset.

Gates' last game at Haas Pavilion was his best offensively, and as much as the The Sheriff fits his persona, the fourth-year athlete and first-year graduate student needs a new title:

The Mayor.

Never mind that Saturday's 83-64 thumping of No. 20 USC means the Bears are heading back to the NCAA Tournament and could hang a Pac-10 championship banner in the Best Arena in the West.

The man that stands out on this team of teams is the man I want representing my school, standing with me in my corner, and running the show in this town for years to come.

"His spirit has rubbed off on our team," Cal coach Ben Braun said.

Gates may not be able to match Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean in the ankle fat category, but his no-nonsense demeanor has gotten the job done time and again these past four seasons.

On Senior Day, as he walked out to his pregame ovation, Gates carried his infant niece proudly in his left arm, so we know he's got that capture-the-moment charisma and the baby kissing thing down pat.

But maybe we shouldn't rush Dennis into such an important job. How about we let him take his master's degree in education and let him find out what politics are all about as the principal at Berkeley High for a few years.

Gates-we'll forget Saturday's airball from 10 feet behind the three-point line-has rarely done wrong since he's donned the blue and gold.

"He left his mark here, a pretty solid mark on this campus," Braun said. "He's done it all, he really strives to be the best at everything he does-it's like an obsession."

And I wish I had a job offer for every time I've heard this:

"Defensively, he was superb."

As much as he deserves it, Gates himself would hate to see excessive praise and accolades heaped on himself.

He's always the first guy to congratulate a teammate, thank a fan for all the loyal support, or remember a friend who's passed on.

Gates would want you to know that Saturday's win couldn't have happened without his fellow seniors, Ryan Forehan-Kelly and Solomon Hughes, and every other Cal player.

Braun gave the trio the starting nod Saturday, keeping leading scorer Joe Shipp on the bench for all but 15 minutes, knowing that his veterans could win another most important game of the season.

Along with Gates' 17 points, Forehan-Kelly (14 points) and Hughes (10 points, seven rebounds) also went out with the solid games Cal fans have come to depend on.

The three seniors are very much prototypical Braun players. They're hard workers, team players, and as the cover of the Cal men's basketball media guide proves, sharp dressers.

Any mention of leaving home shouldn't go without saying something about the home that is being left behind.

Haas and its fans have had nothing but praise and wins heaped on them this season.

The Bears went 17-1 at Haas and have won 43 of 53 games they have played in their three years in the building.

But there is at least one person who isn't getting caught up in all the Haas hype.

He was was greeted by photocopies of his mug shot with the label "1.9 G.P.A.," which, if he didn't see on paper, he certainly heard in chants coming from the Cal student section.

"You can't let the crowd get in your head," a bitter, Gatorade-sipping Sam Clancy said. "It's not the first time the crowd was talking stuff about me. Oregon's better anyway."

McArthur Court does have decades of history on its side and the Ducks didn't lose there this season.

But with almost 3,000 more seats, an upcoming graduation and a press pass that won't do me any good next season, this reporter is going to have to give the nod to the house that Haas built.

Hopefully The Mayor can hook me up with tickets.


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