When the high school basketball season began last November, long-time Lowry High School boys basketball coach Chad Peters knew it was going to be his final one in nearly 20 years as head coach of the Buckaroos.
After missing the 2020-21 season due to the Covid pandemic, basketball was back this school year but the coach did not want to make it about himself, as he took on a team with not a single player having varsity playing experience.
Despite a rough start and some bumps in the road, the Buckaroos advanced to the Northern 3A Regional semifinals, before being eliminated by eventual state champion Elko.
“I knew I was going to be done, but I didn’t want to make it about that,” Peters said. “When I was done, I was emotional but not in a way where it was like I am not going to miss this, I am not going to miss this. I am going to miss my relationship with the kids and I am going to miss hanging out with Dave (Schwartz) and Nate (Green) (Lowry assistant coaches) and my coaching staff. For four months, you get to hang out with your boys just about every day and have a legitimate excuse to do so. They love the game and put the time in. Both of them don’t get paid and Dave has been with me for 18 years and we disagreed. Which you need to do. I am forever grateful for Dave, Nate, Herk (Criswell), Jerod (Eastman), Jeff (Rinas), Grant (Beatty), Danny (Westfall), Byron (Jeppson) and Todd (Milton) God rest his soul. The list is long and I love them all to this day. I am not going to miss the travel, missing Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years.”
After winning a state championship as a player under coach Vince Mendiola in 1992, Peters began his coaching career shortly afterward at McQueen High School in Reno.
Peters came back to Winnemucca and Lowry High School in 1999 when he took over the program at 24 years old – and at that time he was the youngest ever head coach at the 4A level.
The Buckaroos were still a member of the large school classification in 1999.
“I remember that first year and how young I was and how interesting it was to come home,” Peters said. I was excited to be home. It was a learning experience for sure.”
Peters coached seven years in his first stint as head coach at Lowry and took off four years before returning to coach for 12 more years.
The Buckaroos won state titles in 2002 and 2012 – which were unexpected and filled with drama at times.
In that 2002 season, players were kicked off the team and the season had its controversial moments.
Lowry lost the regional championship to Manogue by more than 30 points and was given very little chance to win a state title.
The Buckaroos came back and shocked Manogue in the state semifinals and beat Southern 3A champion Moapa Valley 54-51 for the state title.
“Every season has a story and every year there is 'we will not have to deal with that' but there is always another hiccup,” Peters said. “We were given no chance to win that year but we overcame and found a way to get it done. It was just a blur for me with what went on the last month of the season. We weren’t the best team in either of those years. You have to get lucky, don’t mince words, you have to get lucky in games. You have to get the 50/50 balls and the stars have to align in order for you to win a state championship.”
There wasn’t the drama in 2012 but beating a powerhouse Elko squad was just as unexpected.
Lowry played in the state tournament in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 under Peters. The Buckaroos lost the state title in 2011 to Moapa Valley after leading by double digits in the first half.
The coach called that one of the toughest moments as a coach but also one of his proudest.
He remembered after a devastating loss that the team stayed on the floor for the trophy ceremony — a deed that was noticed by the Moapa Valley coaches, players and fans.
Peters’ final victory came in the 2022 Northern 3A Regional Tournament against South Tahoe, which was his 300th in his career.
“It was such a surreal night when we beat South Tahoe,” Peters said. “We were playing against (South Tahoe coach) Tom (Mauer). When I was 24 and just starting coaching, Tom was the guy at Galena. I was coaching against him as the young guy and 23 years later I am coaching against the really old guy as an old guy myself.”
After getting that 300th win against the Vikings, Peters was ready to get off the court but no one else was moving.
Lowry athletic administrator Tim Connors and Mendiola were at center court ready to present Peters with the game ball to honor Peters’ 300th and final win.
“I was like 'what are you guys doing, get off the court and get in the locker room,'” he said. “I saw Tim out there and Vince with the ball and I got emotional with what Tim said. That moment hit me and it was surreal. When I was AD, I remember recognizing Vince as the winningest coach in Lowry High School at 155 wins. I hit 300 and my guy — the reason I got into coaching was him — was there with the ball. It wasn’t about the Xs and Os and I was never good at Xs and Os. My knowledge and what I brought to the table was building a relationship with my players. I wanted everyone to experience what I had with coach Mendiola when I grew up. It wasn’t ideal at times. What he saw as me being competitive and I being competitive were two different things. That is the beautiful thing about being a coach and a player and coming to that common ground.”
Peters noted that the thank yous are endless but there is no bigger thank you than goes to the administration at the high school, school district, and to the community.
“No community is more faithful to our sports programs than Winnemucca,” Peters said. “We travel as well as anyone in the state.”
Peters added it’s not a negative thing but a time for him to leave and let someone else come in with the energy to take over.
“This last group I can honestly say was a hell of a lot better on Feb. 22 than they were on Nov. 12 and that is all I care about,” Peters said.
“It’s not for me to say if it was the best coaching job we did. This last group was special to me. What was cool is when I came back in 2011, Cal (Peters) and Zach (Fernandez) were first-graders and have been with me for 12 years. I always was nervous about coaching my son and not having last year was weird. Both of those boys got to experience what they grew up in. We may not have the state championship and all the wins and losses but we played some pretty cool games.”
Holding back tears, Peters said Cal would forever be his favorite Buckaroo but he will never say who No. 2 is. He noted every player is special.
“I feel really good about where I left the program,” Peters said. “They always talk about is the program in a better place than when I got, I would say I can’t be the judge of it. It’s not about the basketball for me, it’s about the life piece and how we built kids as adults for the future. You can judge as a coach but for me the fact that I have kids come back and call me is coach is the greatest level of joy that you can’t get as a teacher or a coach.”
Peters will be staying in Winnemucca and continue to build the programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Winnemucca. Don’t be surprised to see him watching the Buckaroos next year as a fan.
"My support system is fantastic and too many to name," Peters said. "But they are never forgotten and they know who they are. The coolest job I have ever had was to be the boys basketball coach at Lowry High School. This job now that I have will replace that. This job I have now is very cool and fulfilling for what we do for the community. But for what we did with the basketball program, the journey and the 19-chapter book it was a great ride. At the end of the day it was time for me to step down."