Steve Patterson was widely known as a center on three national championship basketball teams at UCLA under Hall of Fame coach John Wooden. He later played in the NBA and coached at Arizona State University. As a player and a coach, Steve was committed to serving and mentoring those around him.
Steve developed Patterson Sports Ventures, linking players, teams and sports foundations with important social causes. Steve continued to develop his vision for and devotion to improving the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable members of society, as a coach and mentor, through his career in sports marketing and communications, and as a father and husband. Steve had a knack for bringing people together, as well as an unwavering faith in the goodness and potential of every person he met. His warmth, convictions, and genuine love of people, combined with uncanny acumen in marketing and communications, were key ingredients to forging diverse and effective partnerships that brought together business, sports and community interests to improve the lives of others. In helping to organize the Maricopa County (Arizona) Council on Youth Sports and Physical Activity— a project close to his heart and home—Steve saw a way to bring the fun and passion back to youth sports while helping to promote lifelong healthy habits among young people.
Steve worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to leverage the power of sports for important social causes. Steve's leadership was integral to the success of the sports outreach effort for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Cover the Uninsured Week Campaign and a variety of other initiatives.
In addition to his works in the community, Steve always found time to coach. According to his wife, Carlette, coaching was Steve’s true calling. He viewed coaching as a way to connect with young people and help them achieve their potential—not just in sports, but in life. Steve spent countless hours volunteering to coach at all levels—from professionals to kids through Boys & Girls clubs. When his daughter was 12, he coached her girls’ team.
As Steve himself put it, “I was fortunate that I was able to be a successful college athlete and professional athlete and to coach at the college ranks. And I have had a great deal of success. I have been blessed. It certainly is not through my own efforts. I have had great help and support and great mentors. But at the same time, ultimately I have found that giving something back and being involved in a greater cause is really the most satisfying thing you can do and it’s better than money. And it’s long lasting, and so that it’s not that there aren’t all kinds of other markers for success out there, wins and losses and dollars in your bank account. But ultimately at the end of the day it’s really what you do to help others that matters. So, it’s a primary motivation for me. And that kind of vision if articulated properly draws people to it. It attracts people. Because people are drawn to a big vision and people are drawn to the whole notion and the whole concept of helping others." Steve believed in a powerful vision of altruism, that, when articulated properly, draws people to it. And when that happens, people strive to make a difference by serving others for a greater good. He was joined in that vision by Carlette and their five children: John, Brent, Amanda, Sara and Makena.
Steve died on July 28, 2004, of cancer. He was 56. In recognition of the strong contribution he made in improving the lives of others, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched this award in 2005 in his honor.