Pastrell credits his early interest in basketball to the elementary school teams that used to play during halftime at university basketball games. His early coach was the late Ed Van Gorder, who was then at B.D. Billinghurst Junior High and later a member of the Washoe County School Board of Trustees. Today there is a school named after Van Gorder.
Following his Billinghurst days, Pastrell went on to Reno High where his first coach was UNR Athletic Director Dick Trachok. In his junior and senior years he was coached by another well recognized Renoite, Buddy Garfinkle. Pastrell’s sophomore team went undefeated and the senior squad suffered only one loss, however it went on to defeat Lincoln High for the state championship. Pastrell was named all-state in both his junior and senior years.
In his frosh season at Utah the freshman squad went undefeated, and as a member of the varsity team as a sophomore his Utah squad was ranked No. 2 in the nation. One of their best wins was over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.
One of the highlights of his basketball career was going to a classic tournament at the Sugar Bowl in 1955 and scoring 18 points against highly ranked Marquette. In 1955-56, he traveled to Corvallis, Oregon to play in the NCAA tourney and in 1957-58 competed in the NIT tournament.
Following college graduation he entered the Marine Corps as a 2nd lieutenant and served for seven years on active duty and another 23 years in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring as a full colonel. While on active duty he made the all-Marine teams in San Diego and Hawaii. Under coach Hal Fischer, who had been an outstanding roundball player at Nevada and later a long time coach at the Presidio in San Francisco, Pastrell went to New York for tryouts of the U.S. Olympic basketball team.
Returning to Reno to work for IBM, he prevailed upon this to form a team for Stremmel Motors to compete in the top division of the Reno City League basketball program. That team went undefeated its final two seasons, with Pastrell the perennial high point man.
Shooting the ball well was the Pastrell trademark and he was one of the first players to develop a one-handed jump shot, the same shot that is most favored by all NBA players today. Cresting just above six feet, Pastrell had a great vertical leap, which made it difficult for anyone to effectively guard him. When asked how he developed such spring in his legs, he said, “My dad set up a hoop for me to practice, unfortunately it was behind our outdoor clothesline, so when I shot I had to jump high enough that the ball would clear the clothesline and the laundry.”
During his Reno High career, Pastrell was also an excellent basketball player and that sport is included on his induction certificate.
Coincidentally, two of his teammates on the Stremmel squad of 1967-68 are also High School Hall of Fame inductees; one is George Smith, who was also his teammate in high school, and the other is Mike Olivas, who was inducted into the Wooster High School Hall of Fame last Saturday.
This particular Stremmel team was unique in that they made it through the entire season with only seven players. In fact, at one game they could only field four players, which was allowed under the rules. However, if one of them had fouled out they would have had to forfeit the game. They set up a box zone on defense and were comfortably ahead at halftime. For the second half, Smith crawled out of his sick bed at home and made it to the gym. With him on the floor they lost their commanding lead and barely eked out the victory.
Finishing out his active playing career without the Stremmel five, Pastrell then went on to serve as city league basketball commissioner for 17 years. It was also a position I held for 7 years during the 1950s.
Following his career at IBM, which ended after 8 years since he did not want to transfer out of the Reno area, Pastrell served as an executive for the Reno Chamber of Commerce under the late Jud Allen and then went on to a 6-year career with Sears prior to retiring. During that span he kept his real estate broker’s license active.
He moved to Palm Desert, Calif., in 1999 and then to Las Vegas in 2006, where he and his wife Jane still reside. He was born in Reno in 1936 to Louis and Doris Pastrell. He married the former Jane Richardson in 1956 and the couple have four children, 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.