Mark Amodei remembered going to high school and looking up to a person like Paul Laxalt, who won a state basketball title at Carson High. Laxalt was at CHS about 40 years before Amodei attended Carson.
“I remembered when I was in high school...” Amodei said about how he looked up to Laxalt.
Now it’s been 40 years since Amodei played on the 1975 Carson High boys basketball team that made an unforgettable run to the state crown, the school’s first and last since the days of Laxalt.
“I wondered about that the other day,” said Amodei, who now serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, about how he’s now essentially taken on the role of Laxalt.
Mike Longero, the Northern Nevada Player of the Year that season, had similar sentiments. “It goes by pretty fast,” Longero said. “There are still some pretty clear memories.”
About what the experience of winning the state title had on his life, Longero said, “it was very impactful.”
As it was for Amodei. “The whole week was incredibly fun,” he said. “One of the funnest weeks I’ve ever had in my life.”
While most of the memories are clear, one is a little clouded. At that time, Las Vegas and Clark were considered the top two teams in the state — and certainly considered unbeatable by any Northern Nevada team.
When Carson met Las Vegas in the semifinals, Vegas was 25-0. When the Senators met Clark in the finals, Clark had two losses — both in overtime to Vegas. So now as then, the two schools pretty much are interchangeable when it comes to remembering what happened.
It was either during halftime of the Vegas or Clark game, an incident happened involving one of the opponent’s players and Longero. Amodei remembers it happening during the Vegas game while Longero and Tom Andreasen, who coached the team to the title, remember it happening during the Clark game.
Longero wanted to play down the incident, saying everyone involved became on good terms. “I don’t want to make a big deal of it,” Longero said.
But there’s no denying, it was a watershed moment for the Senators. “I can’t tell you there was a halftime talk,” said Amodei about the emotions in the locker room. “That totally removed any intimidation that there was. In the second half, we went on a mission.”
“It really motivated us in the locker room,” Longero said. “It just reinforced our determination to beat them.”
Longero and Paul Gray, a starting guard on that team, were making their third straight trip to the state tournament. In 1973, Carson was routed by Rancho in the first round.
But in 1974, Carson lost a close game to Valley in the first round, a game the Senators arguably could have won if Longero hadn’t sprained his ankle. “You know what? We can play with these guys,” said Longero about what he was thinking about the Southern Nevada teams after that game. “That kind of made us not afraid.”
But another wake-up call happened that planted the seed for the state title run. In the zone finals, Wooster upset Carson 71-69. Amodei admitted the afternoon of the Wooster game, “We were doing everything we weren’t supposed to do.”
“I think that kind of shook us up a little bit,” Longero said.
But a re-focused Carson team drilled Bishop Gorman 72-36 in the first round of the state tournament. Still, the Southern Nevada skeptics remained, including a Southern Nevada official, who was working the games at the state tournament.
Even when Carson beat Vegas in relatively convincing fashion 60-55 in a game that really wasn’t that close, the official was still skeptical. “You got Vegas on an off night, but you’ll never beat Clark,” said Andreasen about what the official told him.
As high as the skepticism was in Southern Nevada, the support was for Carson in Northern Nevada. Amodei said the support of those from Northern Nevada who were once Carson’s rivals was gratifying. “The whole state of Nevada north of Indian Springs is rooting for you,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Amodei and Longero gave much of the credit for the state title run to Andreasen. “Totally unique style,” said Amodei about Andreasen. “Very unique style of coaching.”
“I think he was a master at preparing us for the game mentally and in the Xs and Os,” Longero said.
An overflow crowd of more than 7,000 fans filled the Reno Coliseum for the state title game. Andreasen said he was worried after the emotional win over Vegas, his team could be tired. He needn’t be.
Andreasen said he remembered Don Crossley, who started in the frontcourt with Longero, flying down the court when receiving a pass from Longero after Longero pulled down a rebound for a basket to give Carson a 2-0 lead and set the tone for the game. Carson had the game in hand close to the finish, with Clark scoring near the end for the final margin in a 68-67 Senator win.
“It was kind of for the community kind of thing,” Longero said. “You couldn’t believe the support we had from the community.”
Or the convoy traveling back to Carson City after the state title game. “The string of cars coming back to Carson through Washoe Valley was incredible,” Longero said. “It was just something you weren’t going to forget.”
While Longero was the star, he was quick to mention all the members of the team, which also include Jim Salazar, the starting point guard, 6-2 Rob Young, who played bigger than his size, Steve Rasmussen, Billy Nagle, Morey Tresnit, Reese Bostwick, Dana Winkleman and Jerry Schroeder all made key contributions. “It was a full-team effort,” Longero said.
And the team has stayed close over the years, Longero said. “It was a close group of people.”
And the team made its mark in life, including Longero, who went on to a successful playing career at the University of Nevada and to become an educator. Gray, who went on to turn Reed into a Northern Nevada power as its boys basketball coach, and Amodei, who went on to a distinguished life in the military and politics.
Amodei said what he learned from that state title team is even if it’s expected that something can’t be accomplished, that’s no excuse to give up.
“Let’s just go try to do it,” said Amodei about what his philosophy has been in life.