Bill Tatomer, Dick Olsen, Jeff Smith, Marty Cowin, Scott Evans, Les Gurski, Trent Leavitt, Barney Murnin, David Eley, Jeff Murnin, Steven Toly, Mark Uriarte.
Led by Coach Bruce Reid, these boys secured the only basketball state championship in Park City history. It was forty years ago, in March 1980, that the PCHS boys took home the trophy. March 16 marked the title game victory and March 21 marked “Park City High School Basketball Championship Day,” as declared by then-Mayor Jack Green. The 1980 state title was the first in any sport for PCHS, but others would follow, including this year’s hockey team.
The 1980 season didn’t start the way most championship teams would hope, especially when the season is only seventeen games long. PCHS opened the year with four non-league games, dropping three to enter league play with a 1-3 record. To be fair, all three losses were against bigger schools – Park City played in the 1-A Division at the time – and the three losses were by a combined seven points.
Nonetheless, Park City had work to do if they wanted to enter the Region 11 Tournament with a good seed. And work they did. Led by seven seniors, including captain Mark Uriarte (guard), defensive stalwart Barney Murnin (guard), and leading scorer and rebounder Marty Cowin (center), the Miners went 11-2 in league play, losing only to undefeated Dugway – the regional one-seed, and Tintic, another strong team. The high school yearbook staff noted that “this year’s team exhibited a special kind of dedication, intensity, selflessness, and striving for excellence with which only championship teams are familiar.”
The Miners entered the region tournament as the number-two seed. They won both of their regional games, handling South Summit and avenging their regular season five-point loss to Dugway with a six-point win. On to the state tournament they went – with the number-one seed!
Park City opened the tournament against Valley High School, the seventh-place team from Region 12. The Park Record reported that the matchup “was not expected to be a close game, with the Miners heavily favored to breeze through… on their way to the Quarter Finals.” Unfortunately for Miner’s fans and players, the game turned out to be a nail-biter.
Park City led by only four points at halftime, thanks to turnovers that “continued to plague” the Miners. Another “flurry of turnovers” and some ice-cold shooting allowed Valley to close the gap and take the lead by four at the end of the third quarter. Park City pulled back even in the fourth, and the teams jostled for the lead. The game sat tied up at 53 with just over a minute left. Neither team managed to score until a Valley player fouled Senior forward Scott Evans with four seconds to go. He made one of two free throws to leave Valley with a chance. Valley inbounded and threw up a “desperation heave” that fatefully missed, giving Park City a 54-53 victory.
Perhaps the Miners’ strong run through the regular season had gathered them a little arrogance. After the narrow victory, Coach Bruce Reid told the Park Record, “We were flat and didn’t play with emotion. When I walked into the locker room after the game, you’d think we’d lost… The kids and coaches were disgusted with our performance.”
The team pulled themselves together, going out the next night and avenging their regular-season loss against Tintic in the quarterfinals. They then squeezed out a win over “dark horse” team Parowan, a team with “more overall height than Park City and [which] was known to play fast.” But Park City possessed a “crushing defense,” holding Parowan to 52 points, and willing Parowan’s last-second tying shot-attempt to circle around the rim and fall harmlessly to the floor.
Finally, Park City entered the Championship match – their first ever – against South Summit High School. While PCHS had beaten South Summit handily in the regular season and in the Region 11 tournament, the Wildcats had obviously made it to the title game – and it was their fourth in eight years. On the way, South Summit had taken out the other top teams in the tourney – Kanab and Dugway. But Park City’s stifling defense “befuddled the Wildcats” and “Park City ran away with it,” winning their first and still only state title 54-38.
The Park Record asked Coach Reid who stood out to him on his championship squad. He praised all his players, saying, “It’s tough singling out the kids because we were a team, and we’ve been a team all year long.” The Utah Coaches Poll had no problem singling out a player. They named Senior center Marty Cowin the 1-A season MVP, as did the Deseret News. He and Senior captain Mark Uriarte were named first-team All State.
In his declaration of a day dedicated to the 1980 champs, Mayor Jack Green mentioned the importance that both sports and our youth play in the community. The victory came at a time when Park City was remodeling itself to survive, finishing the transition from a near-ghostly mining town to a destination town – a place where people want to be. The 1980 basketball squad was a mirror of the town. As the Park Record put it, “in the not-too-distant past…” the high school sports teams – and the town – “were suffering from hard times.” But just like their fellow Parkites, the basketballers were “determined players who never said quit.”