Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Jesse Granger discuss all things high school basketball, including this week's big Southeast matchup between Foothill and Coronado.
When Bret Walter moved his family to Las Vegas in the late-1990s, he expected to live here only a few years.
He had just finished playing college basketball at Concordia University in Nebraska, a Lutheran college that coordinated for its graduates to get paired with Lutheran schools to begin their teaching careers.
Faith Lutheran was the first to offer Walter a job, as a teacher and basketball coach. Suddenly, there’s this 23-year-old kid fresh out of college manning a basketball program for a school of less than 100 students. Forget about winning games — Walter spent that initial season teaching players the game’s fundamentals, such as dribbling.
Along the way, something happened that Walter didn’t expect: his family fell in love with the Faith Lutheran community. They found Faith Lutheran had similar qualities of small-town Nebraska, with everyone supportive of the school and each other.
So, he stayed.
Now in his 20th season, Walter won his 300th game this week, and school officials made sure the feat was celebrated. They coordinated with former players to return for Wednesday’s 77-55 victory against Legacy for a postgame reception and hung a banner in the gym to document his record.
Walter deserves the recognition. In addition to teaching those initial teams the ins and outs of the sport, when they were fortunate to win a handful of games each season, he built a dynasty at Faith Lutheran in the mid-2000s, winning five state championships in six seasons.
“That first year we didn’t make the playoffs in the 1A,” Walter said. “When you’re that young, you really don’t know exactly what’s going on. It was like climbing a mountain. It was a long road to get to this spot.”
Walter has been more than a coach — he’s the program’s architect.
They went from playing in a rundown gym on Rancho Drive and the U.S. 95 to a state-of-the-art facility in Summerlin, and from competing against small schools like Lincoln County and Pahranagat Valley to battling for supremacy in the large-school classification against the likes of Bishop Gorman and Centennial. The enrollment is now at nearly 1,000 students.
“Back then, we didn’t envision anything like this,” Walter said. “The school has been blessed. It is a result of sound leadership at the school. The mission of the school is something the community has gotten behind and the school has grown because of it.”
The state championships — first in 2003 against The Meadows in the 2A classification and four straight in the 3A from 2005-08 — are the highlights of his career. Those nights were made even more special because his young son, Brevin, was along for the ride.
Brevin is now a sophomore on his dad’s team.
“It was a lot of fun growing up on the sidelines and getting to watch every practice and be there for every moment,” said Brevin, who had 11 points in the win against Legacy, including a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from the corner. “It’s really cool getting to play for him and share this experience with him.”
Coach Walter is just 43. He has another son in Faith Lutheran’s middle school. That means there will be plenty more memorable nights along the Crusaders’ sideline. Aside from the 300 wins, he’s lost about 220 games.
“As we have grown, we have continued to maintain that small community feel,” he said. “We thought we’d be here three years and gone. I had family in Idaho; (my wife) Nebraska. But this is home now.”