The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Paul Valenti Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen and Dominic Cusimano.

February 24, 2014


Paul Bartholomew Valenti was born in 1920 in San Francisco, California, the son of Italian immigrants. A skilled athlete, Valenti excelled in basketball at Tamalpais High School and earned a scholarship to play at Oregon State College under Coach Slats Gill. As a freshman, he contributed to an OSC "Rook" team that went undefeated, and his varsity squads won the 1940 and 1942 Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division championships.

Having not yet completed his degree, Valenti left OSC in 1942 to serve in the United States Navy during World War II. Assigned to work as a dental technician, Valenti spent three and a half years in the south Pacific aboard the escort carrier USS Chenango and was involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

With the conclusion of the war, Valenti married and returned to Oregon State University to finish his undergraduate work and accept a post as Freshman Baseball Coach. In 1948 Valenti also took on the role of Freshman Basketball Coach, supporting the program still led by Slats Gill. In 1964 Valenti succeeded Gill as Head Basketball Coach, and remained in this position until 1970. In 1966, under Valenti's leadership, Oregon State won the Pacific-8 Conference championship and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA basketball tournament, defeating Elvin Hayes' potent University of Houston squad along the way. Valenti also recruited and coached OSU's first African American basketball players, Norm Monroe and Charlie White.

In 1970 Valenti resigned as Head Basketball Coach, feeling that his hard-nosed style no longer fit with the attitudes of contemporary players. He remained as an employee of the OSU Athletic Department, coaching tennis from 1971-1975 and serving as Assistant Athletic Director until retiring in 1982. He retained an office in Gill Coliseum for the remainder of his life and frequently acted as an ambassador on behalf of OSU and the athletic department. In 1982 he was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and in 1990 the OSU Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was added to the Pac-10 Hall of Honor. He passed away in September 2014.