Visiting San Quentin State Prison may be good luck for a professional sports team that wants to win a championship.
The San Francisco Deltas soccer team became the third sports organization to experience the magic.
On Oct. 24, SF Delta team members mingled with the prison population of San Quentin right on the brink of their playoffs.
Among the visiting Deltas was Devon Sandoval who, on Sept. 20, scored two goals in 10 minutes to bring the Deltas back against the New York Cosmos for a tie, according to a San Francisco Gate article.
On Nov. 16, the Deltas went on to defeat the Cosmos 2-0 in the final game of the playoffs.
The win earned the Deltas, a brand-new team with no star players, its first championship.
The consecutive phenomenon of professional teams winning championships after visiting San Quentin first started in 2015.
The Golden State Warriors experienced the magic when, on June 6, 2015, the day before game two of the finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, General Manager Bob Myers and Assistant GM Kirk Lacob played basketball at San Quentin.
Their visit was not the annual community basketball game Golden State plays every year at San Quentin. The two NBA executives played for the Prison Sport Ministry’s “Green Team” that comes into the prison for fellowship through basketball.
Myers scored 26 with 23 rebounds in their 85-79 victory over the SQ Warriors; while Golden State went on to win the 2015 NBA Championship.
In 2016, Lacob visited San Quentin after game two of the Western Conference finals with Golden State tied 1-1 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Golden State went on to fall behind two games, then recover from the semi-finals 3-1 deficit by winning three straight games.
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However, the Cavaliers topped Lacob’s Western-Conference playoff visit. The Cavalier coaching staff, including former NBA players Tyron Lue, Chancy Billups, James Posey and Rod Strickland, toured San Quentin the night before game seven of the NBA finals.
The next day, the Cavaliers capped off a comeback from 3-1 game deficit to win the first NBA championship of Cleveland’s history.
Could even a plan to visit San Quentin lead to good luck in the championships?
In 2017, neither Lacob nor Myers played basketball at San Quentin during the finals, but that may have been because Golden State beat Cleveland in six games. On June 17, Lacob returned as the 2017 NBA Champion.
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“The key to winning an NBA championship is to come to San Quentin,” San Quentin Warrior Anthony Ammons said back in 2016.
That statement now applies to soccer for the SF Delta NASL champions, who started visiting San Quentin on June 27.
On that first appearance, CEO Brian Andres Helmick, Director of Operations Todd Dunivant, coach Marc Dos Santos, assistant coach Andrea DiPietrantonio, goalie coach Chris Brown and active players Cristian Portilla and Tyler Gibson for the San Francisco Deltas greeted the San Quentin OG and Youngster squads.
Dunivant, a retired five-time Major League Soccer champion with the San Jose Earthquakes and Los Angeles Galaxy, took the field on the side of the older incarcerated soccer players. The Delta coaches coached the opposing incarcerated teams. The active players provided moral support.
All involved had a great experience. The Deltas returned to San Quentin four times and were greeted each time by the smiling faces of incarcerated soccer enthusiasts.
The San Quentin population looks forward to seeing the Deltas return next year as champions, but the future is unsure.
Averaging just 2,600 soccer fans attending per game, the Deltas struggle to attract enough people to Kezar Stadium to sustain the business model, according to an article by Douglas Zimmerman called “San Francisco Deltas soccer team could win a championship, fold soon.”
We can only hope the parole board lets some of the Delta’s incarcerated fans go free before next season.
Eddie Herena contributed to this story