Sonny Allen Elected to the Nevada Sports Hall of Fame

August 30, 2005
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 30, 2005

RENO, Nev. -- Sonny Allen, who coached the University of Nevada men's basketball team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearances in 1984 and 1985, heads the list of 2005 Wolf Pack Hall of Fame inductees, Nevada Athletics Director Cary Groth announced today.

Allen was the head coach of Old Dominion from 1965-75 leading the Monarchs to the 1975 NCAA Div. II National Championship. He compiled a 181-94 record at ODU and was the AP and NABC National Coach of the Year in 1975. His teams ranked among the nation's highest scoring teams, averaging 98.2 in 1968, and 95.7 in 1972.

ODU defeated the University of New Orleans,76-74 to win the 1975 NCAA Division II national title. In 71, ODU lost to Evansville, 97-82 in the NCAA finals.

Joining Allen in this year's class is Michael "Fly" Gray, who helped lead Nevada to its first NIT berth in 1978-79; Jim Stassi, a standout catcher in 1981-82 who compiled a .381 batting average with 15 home runs and captained the Wolf Pack during his two seasons at Nevada; and Shahriar Pourdanesh, an All-America offensive tackle who played from 1990-92.

"This is an excellent class for the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame," Groth said. "It's a class that clearly represents the tradition and history of our athletic program. Sonny Allen was considered one of the architects of 'fast break' basketball in the country, and Michael 'Fly' Gray was a stalwart on two of the more entertaining and better known Wolf Pack teams in 1977-78 and 1978-79."

"Coach Chris Ault will tell you that Shar Pourdanesh was one of his favorite players, as Shar represented the character and 'never-say-die' attitude that led to so many memorable miracle comebacks during his time at Nevada, "Groth said. "Jim Stassi was one of the best student-athletes our university has ever seen. He will always be remembered for his wonderful work ethic, on and off the field. We are extremely proud of all four members of this year's class."

The Class of 2005 will be inducted on Friday, Oct. 7 in the Silver and Blue Room of Lawlor Events Center at 7 p.m. They will also be introduced at halftime of the Homecoming game the next day, Saturday, Oct. 8, when Nevada hosts Idaho at 1:05 p.m.

Allen's influence on Wolf Pack basketball was immense. Following successful stints at Old Dominion and Southern Methodist University (he won an NCAA Division II national championship at Old Dominion in 1975), Allen led the Wolf Pack to consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 1984 and 1985 - the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearances. In seven years at Nevada, Allen was 114-89. He earned Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year honors in 1984 and 1985. Allen later became head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA.

Gray teamed with the late Johnny High to form one of the most dynamic and successful backcourts in Nevada history. During his 1978-79 senior season at Nevada, Gray averaged nearly 24 points per game as the Wolf Pack advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. His last-second basket against a talented Oregon State team that would be ranked No. 1 in the nation the following season propelled Nevada into the NIT's second round. Wearing distinctive blue and white tassels on their basketball shoes, Gray and High made for a successful backcourt combination: the muscular High was known for his defensive prowess while the 160-pound, cat-quick Gray had a shooting range that extended well beyond today's 3-point line.

Pourdanesh was one of the anchors of teams that were ranked among the nation's elite at the Division I-AA level and then made a remarkable transition to Division I. Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing more than 300 pounds, the amiable Pourdanesh, an offensive tackle who moved to America with his family from his native Iran following revolution in 1979, was one of the key contributors to the Wolf Pack's highly successful aerial attack. In his three years as a Wolf Pack starter in 1990-92, Nevada was at or near the top of the nation's team passing statistics. Pourdanesh was a First Team All-Big West Conference selection in 1992 as Nevada became the first team in NCAA history to jump from the Division I-AA ranks to Division I and land in a bowl game in its first season. Notably, during his entire career as a starter, Pourdanesh never allowed a sack as the Wolf Pack was ranked No. 1 in the country in both 1990 and 1991 among Division I-AA teams. Pourdanesh's pro career included being named Lineman of the Year in the Canadian Football League in 1994 with the Baltimore Stallions, and then stints as a starter with the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders.

Stassi, who stood only 5-foot-9, was a rock during his two seasons at Nevada. He was named an Academic All-American in 1982 following his senior season, and was a first team All-Northern California Baseball Association (NCBA) catcher in both 1981 and 1982. He was named Most Valuable Player of the NCBA in 1981. He was a 17th round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants following a senior season in which he hit .403 and was second on the team in RBI with 38. After reaching the AAA level in the Giants organization in 1985, Stassi finished his professional career in the Italian Pro Baseball League.