Portland superfan and former staff member Mauro Potestio died earlier this month at age 86, and the school will honor his legacy of loyalty to the program at the San Francisco game on Thursday.
Just how dedicated was Potestio? The game would have been the 900th straight Pilots home game he would have attended -- an amazing streak that only ended because he was near death.
According to the school website:
Mauro attended 898 consecutive home games, a streak that spanned 62 years and 12 different Presidential administrations. The streak began and ended with victories -- a 53-48 win over Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 8, 1949 and a 85-70 win over nationally ranked St. Mary’s on Jan. 29, 2011. Mauro also attended 256 away games, bringing his grand total of Pilots games watched to 1,154.
For the World War II veteran, former team scorekeeper, former sports information director, and ex-men's golf coach, it was an incredible achievement that led to him being honored with the "Ultimate Fan Award" at the Oregon Sports Awards in January.
Portland showed a video of Potestio receiving the honors during the Feb. 3 Gonzaga game, and according to the Portland Tribune, students chanted "You're our hero" even though sadly he wasn't in attendance.
"We went over to his house, and he was so sweet, we told him about it the next day," says [Phil] Potestio, Mauro's son. "Friday (Feb. 4) was very difficult, everything started to shut down, his breathing got hard. He had an amazingly strong heart, even though his body was riddled with cancer."
The next day, Feb. 5, Mauro Potestio was gone at age 86.
Up until two hours before the Gonzaga game, which would have been No. 899, Potestio wanted to go watch his beloved Pilots. When it was time to leave, Phil Potestio asked his father if he wanted to go. "He shook his head 'no,' and started crying," the son recalls. "It signaled to us the end was near." Mauro listened to the game on the radio.
It's a loss not just for the Portland community, but also for the college basketball fans everywhere who show up every night no matter how their team is doing.
The game has a way of grabbing a hold of you, never quite allowing the loyal fan to let go. Potestio felt that, and maybe you know the feeling as well.