Gladstone High School is in the boys basketball quarterfinals for the first time since 1973, facing No. 2 seed St. Francis on the road tonight at 7 in Division 3A. The last time they were in this situation was 41-years ago, when they lost 84-68 to Brawley after a long bus ride. Local resident Chuck Lyons, who played on that team, shared his memories of the season, and what it meant to be a Gladstone athlete four decades ago. The amazing part I took away from this was the school spirit and participation back then. Taking 11 buses to a playoff game? That’s Hoosiers stuff. Incredible. Too bad we don’t witness more of that today.
CHUCK LYONS, CLASS OF 1973: We lost after a five or six hour bus ride to Brawley so we were tired in the second half, and everyone was important to our success on that team, not just Jack Clark, who was a good guy. The starting five in alpha order because all added their own valuable strengths to the team, were David Castaneda, Jack Clark, Chuck Lyons, Eric Mustad and Casey Ruud, with Casey’s brother John probably still the school record holder with a 42-point and 35-rebound performance in a CIF playoff game when Gladstone was new in the late 1960s.
I can’t speak for the other players because I haven’t talked to them in years, my great memories of that team were that while the fans at Gladstone (classmates, parents and families, staff, neighbors and business people in the community) probably say that they were happy to be included (we took 11 rooter buses to Brawley because we couldn’t find any more buses to rent with people still wanting to go), some of my most vivid memories were our fans.
Our teammates were good guys, some more mature than others because it was high school, and I cherish their friendships then even though we all drifted apart after high school. Yet we had a great community that was built with principal John Mann and our teachers and staff really cared. There were no “Cool” teachers in those days, everyone was there to teach you and not be cool thankfully because we learned a lot. Our coach Dennis Wheeler taught us more about life than just basketball, always caring, doing extra to help us develop as young people, taking the time to listen and talk with us and so much more that words couldn’t thank him enough. Our equipment manager Jack Armenta that was tough yet showed us how to respect people.
We went through our freshmen and sophomore years before we finally won a varsity football game and it was so big that we actually got a day off school. Okay so you adminstration people calm down.
We helped other sports and school groups. Who would turn down the opportunity to help them selling (when you could those days) candy sales, etc.? The football program used to have a hamburger dinner fundraiser for anyone in the school cafeteria on late afternoons of home games before we headed up to Citrus College because Gladstone never had a stadium built (they didn’t call us Happy Rock for nothing, Azusa Unified school on county land with a Covina postmark, that is weird).
Our community grew closer and it wasn’t the winning that did that, it was that everyone was included. One of the guys helped the band and drill team so when we had a game they respected that and came to home games, in fact even the afternoon games (those days boys varsity played at 3:15 on Wednesdays followed by JVs, and on Fridays JVs played at 6:30 with varsity at 8, sadly our girl classmates played basketball outside in GAA before girls were later brought to equal status as guys). And, yeah some of us went and helped them, one of us even coaching a “C” team because they didn’t have a coach for a game one day. On Wednesday afternoon games if you didn’t leave your last class at the end of the day and head directly to the gym you probably didn’t get in.
There were only four divisions in those days so we played some pretty big teams and against a few players that later played in pros. And we were ranked fourth in CIF at one time. We won league our last three years (JV once, varsity twice) and played well in some big tourneys at that time. I can see it so vividly I can tell you the colors, I think we got more out of our fan support than they ever realized. After we graduated, I went back to see the team play I thought to support it until I got there, then I realized sitting with the fans what the fans really meant to us. Our guys on that team I was fortunate to be a part of that were good guys, and I hope the fans realize they were just as important to our success as us players were. Thank you fans. And thank you to our teammates that showed a little school could reach heights no one thought possible because as an entire school and community we did it together. God Bless you all.
Varsity Basketball Team Member 1973