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Checking in with CU coach Tad Boyle, including on Greeley Central days he won’t forget

March 10, 2019


Terry Frei 

CU coach Tad Boyle in the media room at the CU Events Center after the Buffs’ 78-67 Pac-12 win over Southern California Saturday. 
Tad Boyle as a Greeley Central High senior in 1981. (Screenshot: GCHS Spud Yearbook.)

BOULDER — You probably know the feeling. Someone is talking to you and he or she looks you in the eye, making sure you know what follows is both important and heartfelt.

That’s the way I felt Saturday afternoon.

I waited until University of Colorado coach Tad Boyle had finished with the post-game news conference formalities to approach him and bring up Greeley, his hometown.

I was a young Denver sportswriter when he was starring at Greeley Central High School. I still consider him one of the top prep players in the state’s history – better at that level than others I saw who went on to professional careers.

I’ve covered his CU teams off and on during his tenure in Boulder, including attending watch parties at his home when the Buffs made the NCAA field on Selection Sunday.

So I didn’t feel too awkward mentioning his Greeley Central days following the Buffs’ 78-67 win over Southern California Saturday at the CU Events Center.

After he stepped away from the microphone in the press room, I brought up Naomi Hidalgo breaking his career scoring record on Jan. 7, and he again talked about it. And with state high school tournaments wrapping up over the weekend, he flashed back to his seasons with the Wildcats.

“I’m happy for her,” Boyle said. “She sounds like a terrific player. I don’t know if they’re still alive in the state tournament or not …”

I told Boyle that Hidalgo and the Wildcats had lost to Holy Family in the Class 4A state quarterfinals. He digested that, then continued.

The 1981 State Class 3A state champion Greeley Central High Wildcats. Front row: Coach Pete Samuelsteun, Randy Mossberg, Dean Miller, Tracy Nickel, Mark Bowles, Vaughn Lechman, Manager Bob Shedden. Back: Head coach Larry Hicks, Bob Billings, Martin DeBey, Jon Cyphers, Jay Branham, Tad Boyle, Wade Harshman, Monty Lewis, Coach Greg Riddoch. For what it’s worth, Riddoch later was the manager of the San Diego Padres.

“As I look back on my career at Greeley Central, the scoring record was nice, but I knew someone would come along and break it,” Boyle said. “And some boy will come along and break the boys’ record and some girl will come along and break her girls’ record.”

That’s when he went into the this-is-serious-stuff mode.

“But when you win a state championship and that banner goes up?” he asked. “That doesn’t go away. So that’s the part that I’m most proud of. And of the teammates that I played with, and the friendships and relationships that I have to this day.”

Yes, in 1981, the Wildcats were 11-0 in Northern Conference play and 19-1 overall. In the Class 3A state tournament, they beat Mullen and Canon City and then drilled Broomfield 70-43 in the title game — all in the new arena on the CU campus, known then and now again as the CU Events Center.

The Colorado State High School Activities Association added classes that season, and Boulder Fairview was the 4A state champion.

Soon, Boyle was heading off to Kansas, choosing the Jayhawks over Kentucky, Stanford … and Colorado.


Greeley Central High School star Tad Boyle after the Class 3A state title game in the CU Events Center, March 14, 1981. From the next day’s Tribune.


 It’s a bit weird, perhaps, but I got what he said about high school basketball. This is different than playing, of course, but I’ve covered Final Fours, NBA Finals and Olympic gold-medal games.

Tad Boyle (33) and the Greeley Central Wildcats against Mullen in the Class 3A state semifinals.

Yet I still consider a Cherry Creek-Pueblo South state tournament semifinal one of the most thrilling basketball games I’ve covered. As good as, or better than, Game 7, Lakers-Celtics, Boston Garden. (And the winner of that state tournament game, Pueblo South, lost to Westminster in the championship game.) Plus, stepping into a high school gym on a game night, or attending a state tournament game, still is an energizing and enjoyable experience.

Also, after leaving Kansas, Boyle was a high school coach at Greeley West for one season (sophomore team), an assistant at Loveland for two seasons, and then was at Longmont for three years before entering college coaching.

So back to Boyle’s current workplace, the arena where the Wildcats won the state title.

The former University of Northern Colorado head coach is finishing up his ninth season at CU, and the win over USC Saturday left the Buffs at 10-8 in Pac 12 play and 19-11 overall. By the end of the night, they had settled into the No. 5 seed at the upcoming conference tournament and will open with No. 12 California. They’ll have to win four games in four days to get the league’s automatic NCAA bid, and while that’s unlikely, the Buffs did just that under Boyle in 2012.

(UNC’s task is similar, but less daunting, with the No. 2 seed Bears having to win the Big Sky Conference tournament to get the league’s NCAA bid.)

Tad Boyle, left, watching from the sideline as his Colorado Buffaloes defend against Southern California Saturday. 

In Boulder, CU has improved dramatically over the course of the season, winning eight of their last 10. The Buffs finished with only one senior on the roster, Namon Wright, and he didn’t play after Jan. 20 because of a foot injury.

So the CU future seems bright, and Boyle is secure with a contract rollover that now takes him through 2023-24. An annual one-year rollover is automatic unless either Boyle and his agent, or CU, opt out prior to Dec. 31 each year.

During the formal part of the post-game news conference Saturday, I asked Boyle how much better the Buffs are now than they were in January, when they bottomed out at 2-6 in league play after a Jan. 31 loss to Oregon State on Jan. 31.

He laughed before answering.

“It’s not even close, the team today versus the team in January . . . I knew that coming into the season,” Boyle said. “I didn’t know that Namon Wright was going to lose the season to a foot injury. I didn’t know that (sophomore center) Dallas Walton was going to have an ACL. I didn’t know that (junior guard) Deleon Brown wasn’t going to take care of business in the classroom. I didn’t know that (freshman guard) Eli Parquet would go down late in the season.

Tad Boyle shakes hands with USC coach Andy Enfield, light suit facing camera, after CU’s win in Boulder Saturday. The two coaches are not friends — and that’s putting it mildly — so the handshake, while perfunctory, was notable. 


“But what I did know was that we were young, and that the early part of the conference schedule did not favor us and we have to try to get off to a good start. We didn’t. We were 2-6. But I knew if we could just keep getting better in practice every day, this team has what it takes. Now we’ve won of eight of 10. And the credit goes to our players for not giving up, not getting down, just coming to work every day and getting better. That’s gratifying.”

Boyle said he annually assesses if a team has gotten better as the season progresses.

“If the answer is yes, I feel like our staff did our job,” he said. “If it’s up and down, up and down … it’s not that you’re going to win every game, but you have to be plying better in February and March than you were in November and December, and I think this team is.”

That challenge — getting better as the season progresses — is universal in basketball.

Including in high school.


Greeley Tribune, March 15, 1981. Note the column at the bottom by Tribune sports editor Sam Mustari.