Bill Bertka and his wife, Solveig, ride through one the L.A. Lakers' championship parades. (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table will be inducting seven new members into its Hall of Fame on Monday, Sept. 18. The Induction Class of 2023 includes four athletes, a coach, a community leader and a special achievement honoree.

The Class of 2023 includes Alex Mack (San Marcos High), Sami Hill (Dos Pueblos), Paula Charest Lilly (Bishop Diego) and Jenna Ridgway Corliss (San Marcos) being honored for their achievements as athletes; Greg Patton, a Bishop Diego and UCSB alum, recognized for his remarkable coaching career; San Marcos alum Harvey Bottlesen, who founded the Santa Barbara Tennis Club, is the community leader, and journalist John Zant, a UCSB alum, is being inducted for his seven decades of providing quality sports writing for the community.

In addition, the SBART is honoring one its founders, 96-year-old Bill Bertka. He is a L.A. Lakers legend, having been a part of 10 championship teams as an assistant coach and consultant.

The SBART Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion. 

The Los Angeles Lakers have benefitted from the inventive mind of Bill Bertka for the last 55 years.

The longtime Santa Barbara resident would need 11 fingers to wear all the NBA championship rings he’s won as an assistant coach, scout, executive and now special consultant for one of the league’s premier franchises.

He’ll stand up to any Celtic or Warrior fan and insist that the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s were “the best basketball team ever assembled.”

Bertka, now 95, etched his name into the basketball history books as the pioneer of film study, advance scouting, player development and analytics.

The National Basketball Coaches Association honored him for his innovations by presenting him with its Tex Winter Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Bertka hung out with 2023 Hall of Fame inductee John Zant, when the Lakers trained at UCSB’s Rob Gym. (Courtesy photo)

But Bertka’s enterprising spirit benefitted Santa Barbara long before he earned that first NBA ring in 1972 alongside the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame recognized his contributions by inducting him into its Hall of Fame as a community leader in 1989.

He came to Santa Barbara County in 1952 to coach at tiny Midland School in the shadow of Figueroa Mountain. He played at the same time for the Santa Maria Dukes of the National Industrial Basketball League.

Hancock College hired him as its head coach in 1954 and, within three years, he led them to 41 consecutive wins and the 1957 Junior College State championship.

Bertka’s alma mater of Kent State took notice and lured him back to Ohio to serve as its head coach for four seasons. He longed, however, for a return to the Central Coast.

“I told my wife (Solveig) that I was getting out of coaching and that I wanted to go where we’d live for the rest of our lives — and that I knew exactly where that was,” he said. “From those early days, I realized there was no place as beautiful as Santa Barbara.”

Bertka, the father of two daughters (Britt and Kris), ran the Santa Barbara Recreation Department from 1961 to 1972. He pioneered the noontime, “Huff ‘N’ Puff” exercise class for businessmen and women.

He also set up exercise classes for mothers by making accommodations for their children. He organized afternoon volleyball for adults at East Beach and after-school, flag football for kids at Chase Palm Park.

Bertka sits beside Pat Riley during the Showtime Era with the Lakers. (Courtesy photo)

And he took proactive measures with Santa Barbara’s sports facilities. He took the historic Carrillo Street Gym, which was being used as a storage warehouse, and turned it back into a gymnasium.

He was a driving force in the development of both Shoreline Park and Elings Park, and forged a joint-lease agreement with SBCC that gave the public access to the La Playa Stadium track and led to the renovation of Pershing Park.

He was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, and served as its president from 1970 to 1972. One of Bertka’s first acts was to start a weekly press luncheon for coaches and athletes.

“A lot of people tried to talk me out of it,” he once said. “I didn’t let it discourage me because I personally believed in it.”

The luncheons, and Bill Bertka, are still going strong, 53 years later.