BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Hair may be grayer and faces a bit more wrinkly, but the 1980 champion Wolves still stand tall on the hardwood court even after 40 years.
“Tonight has been very special for all of us,” said Tim McCormick, captain of the 1979-1980 basketball team, leading scorer for the Wolves, and also All-American and Retro 1980 Michigan Mr. Basketball.
It was a stellar season for the boys that year. They were the first team in school history to make the semifinals in the playoffs and win a regional championship. They were also first in school history to go undefeated during the regular season, with 26 consecutive wins. They finished the season with a 26-1 record, the second most wins in school history.
“I want to thank our coaches; it was a privilege to be mentored; and my teammates, friends, talented players of high character – it has been really fun to reminiscence,” said McCormick at the Jan. 10 varsity game. “I want to thank Mr. (Jeff) Kosin and Mr. (Gary) Kaul, who was our manager when he was a little boy and our ball boy. I want to thank friend, legend and great coach Dan Fife. He deserves a standing ovation.”
McCormick shared his personal story about what made the 1980 team and coaches special. When his family moved to Clarkston in 1974, he told his dad he wanted to play basketball and be a Clarkston Wolf, and asked if they could see a game. He remembered walking into the gym for a game against rival Waterford Kettering.
“My dad could tell I was a little bit disappointed because when we walked in, on this rivalry day, there was about 300 people in the stands. He leaned over and said, ‘don’t worry that it’s empty.’”
His dad knew by the time the game was finished, the stands would be packed to the rafters.
“I smiled. I nodded and I started visualizing and dreaming about it,” McCormick smiled.
Six years later, McCormick was in his senior year and the Wolves were undefeated with a 20-0 record. All the games were packed – at home games, the fire marshall was at every game telling people they had to go home. Fans followed the Wolves on the road and dominate the opposing teams’ gyms.
“Maybe the most singular, strongest memory I have from that entire year, you guys will remember this, before we played Pontiac Central in the districts, we walked up the steps at school, there were about 200 Clarkston fans waiting in the snow to buy tickets when the ticket office opened at 8 a.m.,” McCormick recalled. “There were people in tents who had spent the night to be the first in line. For the students, you might say, what is that? It’s school spirit. There was no internet, no cable, no cell phones, no Great Lakes Crossing, when you drove down I-75, there were no cars – it was a different era. It was special because everyone in our community bought in and they loved basketball.”
He added there is no other basketball program in Michigan through the last 40 years more decorated or dominating as Clarkston.
“Clarkston Basketball is the best in the state of Michigan and it started in 1980,” he said.
Gary Nustad was head coach at the time, and in his third season of six at the helm.
“I would like to thank the Clarkston community,” Nustad said. “You meant so much to us 40 years ago. I truly believe what we started 40 years ago, probably started 43 years ago, has carried on through the Hall of Fame Coach Dan Fife. We appreciate the tradition that continues.
“I would like to take a moment to personally thank Conrad Bruce, Mel Vaara, and Paul Tungate, they took a chance on a 23-year-old,” he added. “I had an opportunity to teach and coach in one of the greatest communities I have ever lived in. I appreciate everything.”
Doug Colling, assistant coach for the boys varsity team, was in middle school at the time and had the chance to see the team play. He was also in the Wolfpack Basketball Camp the players were in and shared an impact the team had on him.
“I’ve got to tell you, the influence you guys had on me and who I have become is huge,” he said. “I wasn’t even a basketball player at that time. I played Clarkston Chiefs but didn’t think of myself as a basketball player. I think to myself how influential you have been 40 years later and 30 years for me as a teacher, and then to coach football and basketball for most of those years. You guys are part of the reason I do this. Thank you very much.”
He shared, “what I remember most about you guys was my sisters were in school with you. They told me stories about you guys, and I can’t say some of them. But I do remember a few things they said, ‘that Ed Haddad, what a fox. Larry Baylis, sweetest eyes.’ Then, there was Tim McCormick, ‘a hunk of a man.’ My grandmother would say, ‘that Scotty Weaver, he’s as cute as a button.’ Scotty, it had to be those glasses. It had to be.”
The players and coaches received a wooden plaque with a team photo which included their name and number, State Semifinalist and 40th anniversary – 2020.