The following information was released by the Cypress College Foundation.
Eaton’s remarkable journey from aspiring auto mechanic to one of the most prolific shot-blockers in NBA history sounds like fiction. He was 21 and repairing automobiles in Orange County when Cypress College Basketball Coach Tom Lubin spotted him and talked to him about attending Cypress College and playing basketball.
Coach Lubin learned that wouldn’t be easy. Mark hated basketball and sent Lubin on his way.
But Coach Lubin is hardly a quitter. He returned a dozen times, the results of which
were a dozen “no” answers from Eaton.
Finally, Lubin agreed to go away for good if Mark would spend an hour or so with him on the basketball court.
Coach showed him some things that made Mark want to come back again. They spent a lot of time together (they remain extremely close friends) and Mark agreed to join the basketball team.
His sophomore season, Eaton led Cypress College to a state title.
After Cypress College, Eaton ended up at UCLA, where he didn’t play much but caught the eye of NBA scouts, primarily because he stood 7-foot-4. The Utah Jazz selected Eaton in the fourth round of the 1982 draft and over the next 11 seasons he anchored the team as it transitioned from laughingstock to championship contender.
During his twelve-year NBA career with the Jazz he was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice and All Defensive Team seven times. He still holds the NBA record for most blocked shots in a single season with 456. He was the first player to total 1,000 blocked shots in just three seasons. Mark swatted a total of 3,064 blocked shots in his
career, which was the second most in NBA history. In 1989 Mark was selected to the NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas, along with his teammates John Stockton and Karl Malone.
The indelible impression that Mark Eaton had on the Utah Jazz is evinced by the fact that they retired his jersey, number 53, in 1996.
Also that year, Eaton became a partner in Tuscany restaurant. He went on to do TV work for the Jazz, served as the President of the NBA Retired Players Association and founded Standing Tall for Youth, an organization that helps at-risk kids in Utah.
In 2008, Eaton embarked on what has become a flourishing second career as a motivational speaker. He uses the lessons learned in basketball and applies them to the concept of teamwork in business.
Once again, however, Eaton had to start from scratch.
“It was humbling,” he said. “I spent 18 months writing my first speech…it just kicked my
butt…. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done.”
The breakthrough came when Mark’s speech coach talked to Eaton’s old basketball coach from Cypress College, Tom Lubin. Lubin said that Eaton was successful on the court for four reasons: he knew his job, he did what was asked, he protected people and he unselfishly embraced making others look good.
That became the foundation for Mark’s motivational message, “Four Commitments of a Winning Team.”
Mark had identified his message, but presenting it was another matter.
“My instincts as an athlete came out,” he said. “I went at it with the same intensity as a basketball player. I tried to figure out how the speaking business works [and] what I had to do to get better. I fumbled a few times but eventually figured it out.”
Those who know Eaton are not surprised by this.
“Mark was an Eagle Scout,” says former Jazz coach Frank Layden. “When he sets his mind on something, he goes after it. That’s what he’s always done.”
Mark resides in Park City, Utah. He has two teenage sons, three horses and two dogs. He is an avid skier and looks forward to scouting moose and elk on horseback.
File photo by C.E.H. Wiedel of the Cypress College campus.