This Day In Sports: The pinnacle of pro basketball’s Boise days

April 25, 2008, 15 years ago today: The Idaho Stampede wrap up their 10th anniversary season with the only championship in franchise history, taking the NBA D League crown with a 108-101 win over the Austin Toros. The Stampede, who had the best regular season record in league history at 36-14, were coached by Bryan Gates and featured local favorites Cory Violette, Roberto Bergersen and Jason Ellis, and all three played key roles in the D League Finals. Violette, the former Gonzaga and Bishop Kelly star, hit just a trio of three-pointers during the regular season, but he sent a message that this was going to be Idaho’s night when he banked in a desperation 29-footer at the buzzer to end the third quarter.

But the heart and soul of the team was future Stampede coach Randy Livingston, the 13-year pro who played in four different seasons with the Stamps and ended his playing career that night with a trophy. D League (now G League) teams aren’t known for developing culture and chemistry due to the transient nature of the circuit’s rosters, but Livingston said after the game that the Stamps were one of the closest teams he played for during his career, which included over a dozen teams in the NBA and various minor leagues in the U.S. and Europe. “This was a lot of hard work—it took a lot of dedication,” Livingston said.

Gates was the glue. He remains one of the coolest stories in pro basketball. He came from Anchorage, AK, to attend Boise State in the early 1990s. Gates didn’t even play basketball. But he wanted to coach, and when former Broncos coach Bobby Dye surfaced as the first man to lead the Stampede in 1997, Gates approached him and said he’d do anything to be part of Dye’s staff. Dye, admiring his resilience, carved out a volunteer spot for him at the end of the bench. Gates then began his basketball odyssey, coaching the Beirut Blue Stars in Lebanon, the good ol’ Hickory Nutz in the Carolina League (going 23-0), and Oklahoma in the USBL.

Gates would coach the Stampede one more season, winning a second straight D League Coach of the Year award. He was 100-50 in three seasons with Idaho. Then Gates got his first NBA assistant’s job with the Sacramento Kings in 2009. He has since been on the bench for the New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves and is currently on Monty Williams’ Phoenix Suns staff. If you watch the Suns try to close out the L.A. Clippers in their first-round playoff matchup tonight, look for Gates on the bench. You will see him.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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