February 2, 2018

A Legacy of Oakwood Spirit

On January 19, Oakwood hosted its annual celebration of Gorilla Athletics at Spirit Night. Tipping off at the close of the school day and lasting well into the night, the event drew large crowds of students, parents, alums, and fans to our Secondary School Gym. Its festivities included face painting, spirit wear, delicious food offerings, fun on-court contests, peppy music from elementary and secondary school bands, ceremonies honoring senior athletes, and of course, lots of basketball.

The first exhibition of Gorilla pride hit the court with a pair of Elementary School exhibition games, friendly competitions featuring our 6th grade boys and girls teams. With the pep band playing and the competitive spirit gaining momentum, the tension in the gym grew as a team of Oakwood faculty and staff went head to head against student squads. In a three-period showdown against the middle school girls, the middle school boys, and the high school boys JV team, our teachers prevailed while holding fast to the portion of our school’s philosophy that stresses humility.

Next, Oakwood’s girls varsity team faced-off against Pacifica Christian, emerging victorious with a decisive 59–26 win. At breaks and at halftime of the event’s first four games, fans participated in 3-point and half-court shooting contests that added to the fun, festive atmosphere of the night. Many in attendance went home with prizes.

The evening continued with the Oakwood tradition of honoring senior athletes across all sports. Athletes from the class of 2018 were announced, presented with stuffed Gorillas, and given warm hugs by their coaches and teammates. The night came to a close with the boys varsity basketball team facing New Roads in a game that was decided in the closing minutes. Although tied at half time, Oakwood ultimately fell to the Jaguars 69-64.

Despite the 64-69 loss, Gorilla pride surged throughout the gym as our fans celebrated another number: 23. This jersey number was worn by UCLA star, NBA vet, and Oakwood Athletics Hall of Famer Mitchell Butler ’89. That night it became the first number to be retired by Oakwood School. Before taking the mic to speak to the crowd, Butler was introduced by Director of Athletics Craig Schoof and Headmaster Jim Astman. Their own words of appreciation towards Mitchell were echoed in a letter Jim read by Roz Goldenberg, who was boys basketball coach from 1983-1991 and led the 1988 team to a CIF Championship. “Your high standards as a student and human-being became how I measured all student-athletes after you played for me,” she wrote of Mitchell.

“Your excellent basketball skills did set you above the rest, but honestly it is who you are as a person that impacted us all. Your kindness, strength, humanity, intelligence, humility, great work ethic, and willingness to sacrifice were the characteristics that led us to a CIF Championship in 1988. I hope you know, Mitchell, that you own the number one position of all athletes that I have ever coached in my career.”—Roz Goldenberg

The truth of Roz’s words were clearly on display as Mitchell accepted the honors with his characteristic gratitude towards the Oakwood community. As coach Angel Hardy said, reflecting on Mitchell’s speech, “He’s the most humble guy, always grateful for his time here and the nurturing environment of Oakwood. You would never know how much he has achieved by the way he speaks. For him, the most important thing is being visible here, giving back, and letting the kids know what an opportunity they have here at Oakwood.”

For more from Spirit Night, enjoy the photo gallery below.

Photos by Sarah Hadley