Tip-Off Gala prepares Oakland fans for basketball season


Taylor Stinson

Coach Greg Kampe speaks at the Gala.

On a brisk Thursday night, players, coaches, fans and alumni met at the O’rena for the Tip-Off Gala. With it being a mere two weeks from the start of the regular season for the men and women’s basketball teams, it was an event which has everyone begging for Nov. 6 to come much sooner.

The night was led by the voice of the Golden Grizzlies, Neal Ruhl, who kept things light and humorous and got plenty of laughs out of the crowd. Players and coaches were mixed throughout the tables conversing with former players, alumni, donors and fans.

Around 5:30 p.m., the festivities kicked off with a silent auction which had a variety of items ranging from game-used jerseys with signed frames to signed chairs used during the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, a catered dinner was served to everyone in attendance. Campus Den also had a booth set up for fans to get their Oakland University gear before the start of the season.

After dinner, Ruhl held a Q&A panel with four of the senior athletes and got their perspectives on what they believe they need to do to be successful this season.Women’s Head Coach Jeff Tungate also spoke and had some inspirational words for his seniors and for the the rest of the audience.

“We’ve always focused on the process and the process takes care of the results,” he said. “We work hard and have certain expectations we expect from our team and we got the group they bought in and hopefully that process is gonna come to fruition. This year we’re gonna keep that trajectory going and the sky’s the limit for this team and we really need you guys to come out and support.”

Next was men’s head coach Greg Kampe, who is entering his thirty fourth season as head coach of the men’s basketball team. He is praised with having built the program from practically nothing to the Horizon League power house it is today.

“The level of talent has changed over the years, and we have just gotten better and better, more athletic and better players,” Kampe said. “We’ve grown like the school has grown, 34 years ago half of these buildings weren’t even on campus. We’ve exponentially grown together and I believe we have a program that is very well respected and we have a chance to have a very special year.”

The event concluded with some final words from Ruhl and handshakes and hugs between the players and alumni as they said their farewells until the season begins.

To a veteran like Nick Daniels, who is going into his fifth season as a Golden Grizzly, the gala still came to him as a surprise. 

“Just to see all the people out here supporting us, it’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “All these people are really behind us and really there for us. It’s just really great to be at something like this, it’s awesome because now everyone gets to see what kind of team we are and I love it.”

For freshman Chloe Guingrich, this was her first big event with alumni and fans and it showed her the true Golden Grizzly pride.

“This shows me one thing, that we have very dedicated fans,” she said. “So dedicated that they are willing to buy things that we have signed, sat on or wore.”  

The event was as much for the players as it was for the fans and alumni. Donor and alum Craig Stinson was in attendance. He and his family have been grateful to Oakland and founded the Stinson Student Advancement Program for the School of Business Administration. The Stinson family has also been a key part in the growth and advancement of the athletic program.

“It’s always exciting to come to an event like this; before the season, there is a lot of hope and a lot of excitement around both teams,” Stinson said. “My family has been big supporters of the men’s and women’s programs here and it’s kinda fun to sit at the table with the players. I was next to Isaiah Brock this year who is a tremendous story.”

One thing is for sure with all of the hype going on surrounding the basketball teams this season, the players, coaches and fans can not wait for the men to hit the blacktop on Nov. 6 and the women on Nov. 11. The Tip-Off Gala was the perfect way to build the anticipation even more for the upcoming season. For Kampe, the start of the season means one thing, winning a championship and going to the tournament.

“We’ve really tried to remember what has happened the last couple years and to not forget about it, and to fall into that trap again,” he said. “We got to keep it in our mind that we want a championship and we want to go to the tournament.”