The life of renowned basketball coach George Terzian will be celebrated in a special service at Lake Avenue Church this Saturday, Jan. 18, at 11 a.m. He died in his home on Dec. 15 at age 83 after a reported battle with lung cancer.
Terzian is a local legend after guiding Pasadena High School to CIF Southern Section championships in 1977 and 1978 and two other finals appearances. In his 17 years with the Bulldogs, he accumulated an overall record of 383-110 and was a major influence on his players, most notably Los Angeles Lakers standout Michael Cooper.
“George treated players like they were part of a family,” Cooper told the Outlook in 2014. “Many of us needed that role model at that stage of our lives.”
Cooper went on to play at Pasadena City College and then transferred to the University of New Mexico before being drafted by the Lakers in 1978.
“The major thing he did with young people was encourage a religious life with athletic life. That was the foundation of my life, because I’m from a religious family. I didn’t know you could be in Fellowship [of Christian Athletes] and be an athlete at the same time,” said Cooper, referring to the time demands of each pursuit. “I didn’t know you could combine the two. I really respected that he introduced that into my life, and it became very important for me.”
After a remarkable career at PHS, Terzian took over the PCC men’s basketball program in 1979. He stepped away from the Lancers in 1998 and returned for a brief stint from 2002-04. Terzian is the winningest coach in the history of the program with 332 wins over 20 seasons. His best campaign was in 1982-83, when he led the PCC to the state championship game. Under Terzian, the Lancers made seven consecutive state playoff appearances.
Current Maranatha High School boys’ basketball coach Tim Tucker played under Terzian as a Pasadena Bulldog and a Lancer. He guided PHS to two CIF-SS titles (2007, 2012) and the Minutemen to their first championship in 2015.
“George Terzian was the role model we should all hope to have as a young man growing up,” Tucker wrote in an email. “What he taught me as a player and his assistant coach pushed me to the success I have had in my career. I followed his teaching and his philosophy to a T. Legend does not begin to describe him.”
Terzian influenced a number of local coaches, including Tom Hofman at La Cañada High School, Mihail Papadopulos at San Marino High School and Joe Peron at PCC.
“Coach Terzian had a tremendous impact in my life and taught me that basketball was more about becoming a man of character than simply dribbling and shooting a ball,” said Papadopulos, who played for Terzian at PCC. “He was a master at connecting with people and an incredible teacher of the game, faith and life in general. I am going to miss his wisdom and presence the most. I coach today to honor his legacy and to give back for all that he gave me in my life.”
The mentor was most recently inducted into the PCC sports Hall of Fame in 2018. He also entered the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1987, the Westmont College Hall of Fame in 1995, the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and Pasadena Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
For more information about the celebration of life service dedicated to the Pasadena legend, contact Lake Avenue Church at (626) 844-4700.