Even the mourning has been put on hold by the coronavirus.
A public celebration of life for Mike Moropoulos, former athletic director and football coach at Santa Barbara High, has been indefinitely postponed because of the pandemic.
UCSB officials have also announced that they will wait until next women’s basketball season to honor Mekia Valentine, a record-setting Gaucho center who died last Thursday at age 32.
Mr. Moropoulos, who passed away on Feb. 16 at age 90, was to be feted on June 12 at a newly reconstructed Peabody Stadium. He coached football at the stadium for parts of four decades and became only the second athletic director in Santa Barbara High’s history when he took over for Clarence Schutte in 1965.
His son, SBCC football coach Craig Moropoulos, decided with his brother, Chris, that it would be best to reschedule the public memorial.
“I’ve been getting calls from people asking about it and I tell them that we’re still going to have it at Peabody, come heck or high water,” he said. “But UCSB cancelled their graduation which was scheduled for that same weekend, so we thought it best to postpone it … Maybe to August.
“We want it to be a celebration and not a stressful situation.”
Ms. Valentine — a 6-foot-4 center who still holds several rebounding, shot-blocking, and shooting records at UCSB — was the last Gaucho selected in the WNBA Draft when the New York Liberty took her in the third round in 2011.
Kelly Barsky, who was an assistant basketball coach during Ms. Valentine’s two seasons at UCSB, said her death has sent shock waves throughout the Gaucho community.
“She had this great, big smile that would just warm your heart,” said Ms. Barsky, who now serves as the deputy director of athletics and senior woman administrator for the Gauchos. “She was not only a great basketball player but a great person who could just light up a room.
“Although she had a such a great physical presence, she also had a real lively spirit.”
Ms. Valentine had returned to Santa Barbara after playing professional basketball overseas for four years and studied nursing at SBCC. She was working as a human resources assistant for a local computer software company at the time of her death.
“She had purchased a season ticket this year for women’s basketball and sat behind the bench and was cheering at most of the games,” Ms. Barsky said. “She was really reconnecting with the people in the program.
“She liked talking about the team and was getting excited about the student-athletes that the coaches were bringing into the program.”
Ms. Barsky said she has been deluged by calls about Ms. Valentine from her former teammates, coaches, and fans.
“They live all over the country, and we want an opportunity to gather them all together to celebrate Mekia’s life,” she said. “We want to do it when it’s safe.
“Nothing is concrete, but it’ll most likely be during basketball season.”