It is a story of young, highly competitive and talented teenagers who turned out to be heroic giants as men approaching retirement. They lived a bond as champions that will last for all time.
It is what sports are all about.
This past weekend, the Idaho High School Athletic Association awarded the Legends of the Game honor to the 1975-76 Teton High School basketball team, and what a list that roster turned out to be. The IHSAA hosted the entire team this past weekend at the state championships in Nampa.
This award was established in 2001 to preserve the heritage of Idaho high school sports. That remarkable Teton High School basketball team, one of the most successful in state history, had a roster that has numerous ties to Utah.
“I felt it was a beautiful night and it was greatly appreciated,” said forward Gary Furniss. “We were kind of laughing among each other right before receiving the award that it was long overdue because you have to wait 30 years to be eligible for the award, so you have to live that long to be here.”
That team included former Utah State and BYU forward Furniss, who ended his college career playing with Danny Ainge in the NCAA’s Elite Eight, guarding Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Furniss had 14 rebounds in the title game of 1976 for Teton.
The team was coached by the late Lester Wade, grandfather of former Gonzaga and current BYU redshirt transfer guard Jesse Wade.
On that roster was Layton High basketball coach Van Price, one of the top two basketball coaches in wins in Utah State history; Larry Bergeson, superintendent of Washington School District in St. George, who played in a national championship game for the College of Southern Idaho, and Jim Price, former head coach at Ogden High School.
At the time, that team had the 19th-longest win streak in U.S. high school history. After winning state in 1975 and 1976, the Redskins added a third straight title in 1977. The 1975 and 1976 titles were over Glenns Ferry.
“It was such a great experience enjoying and celebrating the past and present,” said Bergeson, who led Teton with 19 points in the 1976 title game. “Such a great experience seeing teammates and friends I hadn’t seen since graduating from high school 43 years ago.”
“We were treated like royalty by the IHSAA,” said Neil Hillman, assistant varsity coach at Snake River High in Morland. ”It was a chance to catch up on many missed years with these great men who have moved on to become leaders in their respective communities as well as husbands, fathers and even grandfathers.”
Rod Hansen, director of exhibitions at the Museum of Idaho, was the team manager and from an off-the-court perspective recalls the team had guys who were dedicated, talented and full of potential. “Seeing them again after 43 years, proves what I suspected. They have matured into a remarkable group of men.”
One of the teammates, Dr. Brad Smith, a surgeon at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, said the night gave him a chance to reflect on one of the most memorable nights of his life.
Another member of that team was Bruce Schiess, currently the accounting manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.5 comments on this story
Furniss, a former high school All-American and Idaho Player of the Year in 1977, is now general manager of Solid Partners, a Silicon Valley startup. “I’ve received many honors in my life. I was a member of one of BYU’s greatest teams ever (1980-81) that made it to the Elite Eight in March Madness. But I want to commend the visionary leadership of the IHSAA board of directors in establishing this honor. It was great to reconnect with my teammates, my band of brothers of the undefeated 1976 state championship team.”
David Breckenridge, a Teton Valley rancher who still lives in the house he grew up in, remembers Coach Wade telling the team that title night that they didn’t really understand how hard it was to do what they had accomplished.