Remembering Cypress Chargers basketball legend and alumnus Mark Eaton

Mark Eaton began his college basketball career at Cypress College. (Courtesy Cypress College Athletics)
Mark Eaton began his college basketball career at Cypress College. (Courtesy Cypress College Athletics)

PARK CITY, Utah - Cypress College mourns the loss of former NBA center and 1980 Cypress College Hall of Fame inductee, Mark Eaton, who tragically passed away over Memorial weekend. Mark died on May 28, 2021, at the age of 64 after a bicycle accident in Park City, Utah. Mark will be greatly missed as a leader, athlete, mentor, and friend. His presence and impact at Cypress will not be forgotten as his legacy will continue to live on for many years to come.

Eaton attended Cypress College from 1978-1980, earned 2004 Alumnus of the Year, 2014 Cypress College Americana Man of the Year, and was inducted to the Cypress Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2017, Eaton was the keynote speaker at the Cypress Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony where he professed the impact that Cypress College had on his life. 

 

"I had no idea that everything I needed to start my career was found here on this campus. I had no idea that the classes, instructors, coaches, and experiences would propel me to the next level and beyond."

Mark Eaton was born in Inglewood, California, and grew up in Southern California. Despite his height, Mark was more interested in playing water polo at a young age. He attended the Arizona Automotive Insitute in Phoenix after high school and graduated as a service technician. At 21 years old, Mark worked as an auto mechanic at a tire store off Lincoln and Knott in Cypress. In 1977, he was approached by Cypress College chemistry professor and assistant basketball coach, Tom Lubin, where he encouraged Mark to apply to Cypress and try out for the basketball team. 

"I had no idea from my first instruction out on the asphalt court to the rigors of wooden style basketball under legendary coach Don Johnson as well as the sage training advice from Diane Henry would allow my adult life to start taking shape."

Mark was Cypress College's 2004 Alumnus of the Year and the Cypress College Foundation's 2014 Americana Man of the Year. During the 2017 Cypress Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Mark gave a keynote in which he explained how Cypress "served as a launching pad for thousands who changed our world". As a sophomore at Cypress, Mark opted out of entering the NBA after getting drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1979. Instead, he returned to Cypress where he helped the Chargers win the 1980 CCCAA State Championship. He later transferred to UCLA, where NBA Hall of Famer, Wilt Chamberlain, helped him improve his game and become a force on the defensive end. 

"We had no idea that [Cypress] was a place of exploration where incoming students can find resonance within themselves as they consider and embrace new ideas and patterns of thought."

Mark was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 1982 where he started in 32 games during his rookie season. Over his 11 playing seasons with the Jazz, Mark played in 875 games, scored 5,216 points, grabbed 6,939 rebounds, and blocked 3,064 shots. His number 53 was retired during the 1995-96 season with the Jazz and in 2014, his jerseys at Westminster High School and Cypress were also retired.

The full video of Mark Eaton speaking at the 2017 Cypress Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony can be found here (start at 1:14:54).

After playing in the NBA, Mark worked for the KJZZ-TV in Salt Lake City and was a board member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA). In 2008, he became a motivational speaker in which his message, Four Commitments of a Winning Team, were based on what Tom Lubin believed to be Eaton's keys to success: "He knew his job, he did what he was asked, he protected people, and he unselfishly embraced making others look good". He founded and served as chairman of the Mark Eaton Standing Tall for Youth organization and in later years, became a mentor to current Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

Mark died on May 28, 2021, at the age of 64 after a bicycle accident in Park City, Utah. Mark will be greatly missed as a leader, athlete, mentor, and friend. His presence and impact at Cypress will not be forgotten as his legacy will continue to live on for many years to come.

(Brett Franchino, Cypress College Athletics)