Kay Wade opens a red scrapbook slowly, the pages cracking and the thin plastic page protectors sticking just a little bit to each page.
Inside this scrapbook every page holds the weight of a near perfect run for the Teton High School boys’ basketball team that lasted from 1975 to 1977. Kay’s husband Lester, who passed away ten years ago this February, was the king of the courts and Kay smiles deeply and warmly turning each page and reliving that season of their lives that still plays out perfectly in her memory.
“The whole town would shut down to go to those games,” said Kay remembering those days that she likened to the classic movie “Hoosiers.” Kay said there would be a line of cars following the team school bus out of town and sometimes a snowplow in front of the team bus as the community made their way down glory road and onto three state championships.
Gary Furniss was one of the younger players on the team during those seasons and he remembers the same kind of collective spark in Teton Valley.
Furniss had a celebrated high school and collegiate career as a basketball player and was part of the 1976 Teton High School basketball team who were honored at the state championship games in Boise on March 2. The event was part of the Idaho High School Athletic Association’s “Legends of the Game” hosted at the Ford Idaho Center.
“It was a great celebration with the team members, friends, and family that were able to attend, including Tony Wade, former head basketball coach at THS and son of Lester, and Kay Wade, wife of former legendary coach Lester Wade,” said Furniss who now lives in California. “Many of these players went on to be high school basketball coaches, with a few playing in college and beyond.”
School Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme brought home the banner from the event which will also be presented to Teton High School at a home boys’ basketball game during the 2019-2020 season.
“I’ve received many honors in my life,” said Furniss. “I was a member of BYU’s greatest teams ever, the 1980-81 NCAA March Madness Elite Eight team. But I want to commend the visionary leadership of the IHSAA Board of Directors in establishing in 2001 a prestigious recognition program to preserve the great heritage of Idaho High School Sports. I am thrilled to reconnect after 43 years with my teammates, my band of brothers of the undefeated 1976 Idaho Boys Basketball State Champion Teton Redskins. What an emotional and spiritual experience as we were honored as the 2019 boys basketball ‘Legends of the Game.’”
Randy Buxton was on the 1976 team and went on to serve as the Marsh Valley head basketball coach and athletic director. “This is an amazing honor for not only the 1976 Teton boys’ basketball team members and coaches, but also for the 1975, 1977 teams and for our entire community,” said Buxton. “We all are part of this legacy and many have not been recognized. We appreciate the administrators, faculty, cheerleaders, pep-band, student body and our great fans from an amazing community. We are proud to be a part of such a special community.”
Kay remembers that time as a unique mix of players and coaches. She said that success can be a roll of the dice with high school teams, but the ‘75-’77 teams showed a kind of selflessness as a team, which she said was a key ingredient to winning all those state championships. She said it was thrilling to be apart of the IHSAA “Legends of the Game” program.
Other team members agree.
“I participated in a unique experience this past weekend, something I have not seen in my 37 years of sports and education,” said Larry Bergeson, one of the THS team members and now the superintendent of the Washington County School District in St. George, Utah. “What an outstanding time and way to honor the accomplishments of past teams while enjoying and celebrating the present. Such a great experience and association seeing teammates and friends I hadn’t seen since graduating from high school 43 years ago.”
“We were treated like royalty by the IHSAA especially by Julie Hammons who is the assistant director,” said Neil Hillman, who is now the assistant varsity basketball coach for Snake River High School. “It was an awesome time 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! Great group of men to be associated with,” added Hillman.
Those who made the trip to Boise included Tony Wade and Kay Wade (representing Lester), Rod Hansen, team manager, Bruce Schiess, team manager, Larry Bergeson, David Breckenridge, Randy Buxton, Gary Furniss, Eric Green, Neil Hilman, Klay Kunz, Kelly Park, Jim Price, Van Price, Brad Smith, Don Wade and Rex Fullmer.
“Just before the championship game, Coach Wade told us that we didn’t really know what we accomplished and how hard it was to do what we did,” said Dave Breckenridge, a teammate and rancher in Teton Valley. “That helped us understand even more and most of all, it reminded me of home great of friends we were as we played ball and still are today. Thank you to the legends for all the work they put in.”