On Saturday in Berkeley, get the cameras out. Russell White is going to meet Russell White.
For nine years, Russell White, the basketball coach at Encino Crespi, has been confused with Russell White, the former standout running back from Crespi who led the Celts to a 1986 Big Five Conference championship before going on to California and being drafted by the Rams.
White, 44, is now the commissioner of the Oakland Section. His office is not far from Haas Pavilion, where Crespi will play Capital Christian for the state Division IV basketball title at noon on Saturday.
White intends to be there to root on his alma mater and meet his namesake.
“Hopefully, the right Russell White will win a championship,” Oakland's White said. “It’s in my neighborhood. It’s great that Crespi’s there. I’m excited they’re coming up.”
The basketball coach says there isn’t a month that goes by without someone mistaking him for perhaps the greatest athlete in Crespi history. He receives Facebook requests, emails and phone calls from people who think he’s the football player. Students who see Russell White’s track records in the gym ask the basketball coach about his prowess in the triple jump.
“At a football game, a parent comes up to me, ‘It was a pleasure to watch you play football,’” White recalled. “When I was in class, a kid would come up, ‘You played football in the NFL?’ I would say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’”
White, the football player, has three children, the oldest a daughter who will be in high school in the fall. Asked if his two boys, 9 and 7, will be playing football, he said: “That’s a big fat no. They’re soccer dudes.”
When White selected his high school back in the 1980s, it was huge news. He was a phenom and everyone wanted him. Now he deals with parents and eligibility rules through his job as commissioner.
“Having your own kids is the real reality,” he said. “If someone’s doing them wrong, you want to step in and be their safe haven, but you have to understand rules are rules. I love what I do. There are good days and bad days. I’m enjoying it and sharing my story.”
The two Whites hope to meet before the game. The basketball White said he first met the football White at a Corona Centennial football game years ago.
It has been almost 30 years since the football White led Crespi as a sophomore to the football championship.
“I never thought I’d get, ‘Who are you?’” he said. “You realize you have grown up. You have aged.”
The coaching White said, "The real Russell White layed down a foundation of greatness. I guess in theory, though that's not why I came here, I'm just trying to continue that tradition."