Colorado, USA, September 15, 2004 - Patti Lucas-Bright, a two-time Olympian and a member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame, died of heart disease on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, Calif. She was 63.
Born on Dec. 27, 1940 in Chicago, Ill., Patti was a key member of the first two USA Women’s Olympic Volleyball Teams: 1964 in Tokyo and 1968 in Mexico City. She was also a member of the 1963 USA squad that finished second at the Pan American Games in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
In addition to her national team success, Patti participated in 47 United States Volleyball Association (USVBA) Open Championships. In her early years she played on eight Women’s USVBA Open National Championship teams and was a three-time First-Team All American (1963, 1965 and 1968). Overall, Patti earned All-America accolades an amazing 26 times (22 first-team selections and four second-team selections in six different divisions of competition). She also captured Most Valuable Player honors five times.
“Patti was a real fine competitor,” remembers Jane Ward, Patti’s teammate on the 1964 and 1968 Olympic teams and the first woman (along with Flo Hyman) inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1988. “She was always in the game. She was a hard worker and a great setter.”
There is no doubt the biggest volleyball influence in Patti’s life was her mother, Bertha Lucas. Bertha, a USVBA Frier Award and All-Time Great Coach recipient, has been a lifelong contributor to the sport of volleyball as a player, coach, tournament director, clinician and junior volleyball advocate (just to name a few). Her example of dedication and devotion to the development of the sport certainly rubbed off on Patti and her younger sister, Nancy Evans, herself a USVBA All-American player.
For the last several years, Bertha and her daughters have played together in the masters and senior divisions at the Open Championships as members of B.L.T., also know as Bertha Lucas’ Team.
“I am still in shock…Patti has always taken very good care of herself,” recalls Ninja Jorgensen, Patti’s teammate on the 1968 Olympic team. “She certainly never let a ball drop. Patti was a hard worker. She was gutsy…a very good player and a very good teammate.”
The USVBA named Patti an All-Time Great Female Player in 1983 and to the 75th Anniversary All-Era Team (Women’s 1949-77) in 2003. She was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1996.
“Patti was one of those people who made me look good on the court,” added Linda Murphy, Patti’s teammate on the 1964 Olympic team and with the Ahern Shamrocks. “She was an outstanding setter and a great defensive player. She was a really special player. Not that many people become two-time Olympians.”
Patti and her husband Mike (an Olympian on the 1964 and 1968 USA Men’s Volleyball teams) have the distinction of being the only husband and wife combo in USA Volleyball history who have both been selected as USVBA All-Time Great Players and inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame.
She excelled not only on the volleyball court as a player but as a coach as well. Patti was the head coach of the women’s volleyball team at Pepperdine University from 1975-78. She compiled a career record of 102-33-2 and a winning percentage of .752. The Waves finished the 1977 season ranked No. 5 in the nation and the 1978 season ranked No. 4 in the nation. Her teams advanced to the AIAW tournament in each of her last three seasons as coach.
In 1981, Patti led Santa Monica High School to the state championship in girl’s volleyball. A 1964 graduate of USC with a bachelor of science degree in physical education, Patti served as a physical education instructor at Pepperdine from 1979 until her death.
“Patti should have been 100 for all the good things she did for herself,” said Murphy.
She is survived by her husband Mike; her daughters Bonnie Counts, Lari Nusinov and Jodi Saucedo; her son, David Bright; five grandchildren, her mother, Bertha Lucas; her sister, Nancy Evans; four nephews, one niece and 10 grandnephews and nieces.
“I will always remember her smile,” recalls her sister Nancy. “She always had a smile for everybody. In volleyball, I will always remember her energy and speed on the court. She had it until the end. She was very impressive.”