Mt. Diablo High School has retired one jersey number in its 118-year history—No. 41 in basketball. Todd Lichti received that honor when he was graduating in 1985 and now, as one of Stanford University’s all-time greats, the Concord legend is set to be recognized among college basketball’s elite when he is inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this November.
Lichti attended Holbrook Elementary and Glenbrook Intermediate School before coming to Mt. Diablo in 1981 for his freshman year. In his three varsity seasons Lichti excelled to the extent that major college coaches like Notre Dame’s Digger Phelps were coming to P. J. Kramer Gym to scout and woo him.
Tom Davis won the recruiting battle and Lichti matriculated across the Bay to Stanford where he was a stalwart on The Farm from 1985-89.
Lichti is part of a prestigious 2019 Hall of Fame class that includes Indiana’s Calbert Cheaney, Duke’s Shane Battier, Purdue’s Terry Dischinger, Providence’s Ernie DiGregorio, UNLV’s Larry Johnson and former coaches Homer Drew, Lute Olson and the late Rick Majerus. The induction ceremony will take place Nov. 24 at the College Basketball Experience in Kansas City.
“I thought my basketball award days were long behind me,” Lichti said. “It’s humbling to be part of this conversation so many years on, let alone to now be a member of this select group. I struggle somewhat to put this into context coming from everyday beginnings, the son of two school teachers, and returning there in my life now where I suppose I’m most comfortable.
“I must thank my teammates and coaching staff while at Stanford,” Lichti continued. “They worked as hard as I did to achieve what we did and from whom I learned much. My family has always been an incredible support system since my childhood – and now my wife and son are.
“One of the first things I did upon hearing the news was look at the list of players already inducted searching for one name – Hank Luisetti,” Lichti added. “He was there and that made it ok for me to be included.”
Lichti will be the second National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inductee from Stanford in the last three years. His second Cardinal coach, Mike Montgomery, was a 2016 inductee. Luisetti and Montgomery are the only other Stanford inductees in the Hall of Fame.
“When I arrived at Stanford, there was a group that was very hungry for success,” said Montgomery, who coached the Stanford program from 1987-2004. “Todd was the clear leader of this group and commanded the respect from everyone around him. He was very talented and possessed the charge to lead our program to success it had not seen in nearly five decades.
“I am very proud of his accomplishments at Stanford and beyond. He is an outstanding person who deserves to be recognized among college basketball’s greatest of all-time. I look forward to celebrating his enshrinement this November.”
A three-time All-America selection, Lichti is one of only four players in conference history and the lone Cardinal to earn all-conference honors each of his four years. One of the most decorated players in program history, Lichti completed his career as Stanford’s leading scorer with 2,336 career points. More than three decades after his graduation, the total ranks second all-time. He scored in double figures in 121 of his 124 career games on The Farm.
Noted as the pioneer behind Stanford’s national rise to basketball prominence, as a senior in 1989 Lichti guided Stanford to its first NCAA Tournament berth in 47 years. The guard was honored that year as a second team All-American by the Associated Press, also receiving All-America laurels from the United Press International his junior and season seasons. He led Stanford to 76 wins over his four years in a Cardinal uniform.
Lichti’s career scoring average of 18.8 ppg ranks third all-time at the school. Along with his scoring totals, the standout guard ranks among the leaders in program history in field goals made (2nd, 820), rebounds (15th, 697), assists (11th, 304), steals (4th, 156), three-point field goal percentage (2nd, .477), field goal percentage (14th, .538), free throws made (3rd, 584), free throw percentage (5th, .840) and starts (4th, 119).
Lichti was inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.
“Todd is certainly one of college basketball’s all-time greats,” Stanford’s current head coach Jerod Haase said. “It has been a true privilege to get to know him since I arrived at Stanford. His tremendous achievements on the court are only a piece of what he has accomplished as a professional, a husband and a father. This is a well-deserved honor.”
“Todd was the greatest player I had the good fortune to play with,” said Andrew Vlahov, Lichti’s Stanford teammate for two seasons. “His intelligence, competitive spirit and friendship played a large role in shaping my own attitudes as a student-athlete at Stanford and beyond. His basketball talents were incredible and are well documented, but people should also know that his character, integrity and humanity are also world class. A deserving recipient and one that all Stanford past and present students and faculty can be extremely proud of.”
Lichti was the 15th overall selection and first pick of the Denver Nuggets in the 1989 NBA Draft. He played in 79 games during his rookie season, averaging eight points a game.
His career trajectory took a major hit after that season. With his girlfriend Kristin Gravrock, he was driving through Nevada en route to Concord to introduce her to his family. Gravrock was driving and apparently fell asleep. She was killed in the one-car accident and Lichti had broken bones in his right foot. His emotional scars were as deep as the physical injuries.
He recovered to average 14 points in his second Nuggets season but knee injuries limited him to 29 games. He battled injuries for two more seasons before he was traded to the Orlando Magic after the 1993 season. He also made brief appearances with the Celtics and Warriors before retiring in 1994 after playing a combined 13 games for those three teams.
He later starred for several seasons in the Australian National Basketball League for the Perth Wildcats after an invitation from his Stanford teammate Vlahov. He retired from basketball in 1999.
He did commentary for Fox Sports and the Denver Nuggets from 2000-2002 before moving back to Australia in 2002 with his wife Sue. The Lichtis bought a Sante Wines distributorship that year and moved to Melbourne to run it. The couple has one son, Bronx, who’s now 14.
Lichti was born at Kaiser Walnut Creek and raised in Concord with his three brothers, Steve, Scott and Matt, by his teacher parents Robert and Lou. His mom taught at Holbrook and dad at Oak Grove Intermediate. His dad and brother Scott have passed.
His senior basketball season under new coach Jerry Coakley ended a basket short in the league championship game to Pittsburg. They were then shut out of the North Coast Section playoffs because the league rep failed to attend the selection meeting.
He also excelled in track at Mt. Diablo, making it to the CIF State Meet in the long jump, triple jump and 400 meters. He still rues a dropped baton that cost the Red Devils 4×100 relay a State berth.
Todd Lichti and his family get back to the area “every 2-3 years” but you can bet they will be in Kansas City for the Hall of Fame Induction Nov. 24.
Stanford Athletics contributed to this story.