Tad Boyle has enjoyed March madness at the Coors Events Center before.

The former Greeley Central star won a state title in the building in 1981.

Nearly 30 years later, Boyle returns to the court as Colorado`s head coach trying to turn the uncelebrated program into a consistent winner.

"That was a long time ago," Boyle said of his days a prep phenom. "When you`re a high school kid this feels like the Superdome. It`s so much bigger than your high school gym. ...

"All I remember is picking up the trophy and putting it above my head with all my friends I grew up with, and going around the floor of the Events Center showing it to all our fans from Greeley. It was pretty special."

The Buffs host Idaho State in the season opener tonight at the Coors Events Center (8 p.m., FSN). In the weeks leading up to his CU debut, the lessons Boyle learned from his high school coach, Larry Hicks, were being taught to Cory Higgins, Alec Burks and the rest of the team.

Boyle averaged over 29 points as a junior, but Greeley Central fell short of the title that spring. He didn`t score in double figures thanks to double-teams in the 1981 title game, but his team cut down the nets.

The old cliche is true: Defense wins championships.

"A lot of the defensive drills that we do, the breakdown drills, come from my high school practices," Boyle said. "I remember Monday practices at Greeley Central were all defense, whether we won on Saturday by 30 or not.


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As a player you don`t like those practices, but (Hicks) was a tremendous influence on me as a player and certainly now as I coach."

Boyle played at Kansas for TedOwens and then Larry Brown. He went from a high school legend in Greeley to a role player in Lawrence.

"Tad was reading books like, 'How To Make Your First Million,` and I was out trying to have a good time," Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon, who was one of Boyle`s teammates at KU, said during a recent interview with the Camera. "We were total opposites. He was a lot more mature than I was."

After graduation, Boyle eventually took a job in Boulder as a stockbroker. He was making a very comfortable living and coaching basketball on the side, including a stint as Longmont High School`s head coach.

And then fate arrived in violent fashion.

Boyle was involved in a serious car accident at the intersection of McCaslin Boulevard and South Boulder Road in Louisville about 16 years ago. The collision crushed the front of his car. He was knocked unconscious and woke up in the hospital a different man.

"It was a life-changing experience for me," Boyle said. "You just realize how quickly it could be over."

Boyle still thinks about that day when driving to his new office at the Coors Events Center. Shane Harris-Tunks` recent season-ending knee injury even reminded the coach not to take any practice for granted.

"I look at what happened to Shane, he walks out here at 7:15 in the morning and by 7:45 his season is gone," Boyle said. "It`s not a tragedy, it`s disappointing. But when you have a car accident and almost lose your life, it changes your perspective."

Boyle decided to take a risk and left a job that paid six figures to become an assistant coach at Oregon for about $16,000 a year. In Eugene, he reunited with Turgeon, who eventually hired him to rebuild programs at Jacksonville State and Wichita State.

"Tad is a great basketball coach and he`s a really good recruiter," Turgeon said. "He used to talk people into letting him handle their money for them, so he can build trust right away with people. I think he`ll be a fantastic recruiter and do a great job at Colorado."

Boyle spent the last four seasons in his native Greeley taking Northern Colorado from the rock bottom of the RPI rankings to a 25-win campaign.

CU athletic director Mike Bohn attended a Bears game last season and had Boyle at the top of his list of potential coaching candidates when Jeff Bzdelik left CU for Wake Forest in April.

It didn`t take long for the Buffs to buy into what the new hire was selling.

"One of the things he did was ask for all of the players` respect, which I thought was amazing because usually as a player you`re just trying to get the respect of the coach," Higgins said. "I thought that really gained the trust of all the players quickly and got everybody`s attention."

Burks, a potential NBA lottery pick, was upset that CU did not hire Bzdelik assistant Steve McClain. After one meeting with Boyle, the Wooden Award candidate changed his tune.

"Tad is real. I respect that, I grew up like that," Burks said. "My mom is like that. She doesn`t tell lies, she tells the truth, whether you like it or not. I respect that."

Boyle did retain assistant Tom Abatemarco, which really helped on the recruiting trail during the transition. He also brought in two coaches he worked with under Turgeon at Wichita State, Mike Rohn and Jean Prioleau.

"He respects what we do and he doesn`t try to micro-manage. He just expects us to get our jobs done and be good at what we do," said Rohn, who spent the previous three seasons as the director of basketball operations at Texas A&M. "As a coach you want to be able to have some responsibilities and feel like you`re making a contribution. He lets you do that on the floor and in meetings. ...

"He`s the same Tad. Obviously now he has to make a lot of the decisions instead of making recommendations, but we always knew he was going to be a heck of a head coach because he thought like a head coach all of the time."

Prioleau, who also spent five years on Turgeon`s Wichita State staff with Boyle and Rohn, was an assistant at Iowa State and TCU before joining them in Boulder.

"Tad already knows what I`m going to coach. He doesn`t really have to coach me and then I have to go coach the kids. It makes it a little easier that way," Prioleau said. "It allows you to just go and coach and do what you do. Mark was able to do that with me and Tad. It works."

Boyle also hired Rodney Billups, the younger brother of CU hoops icon and Denver Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, to be the program`s director of basketball operations.

"I didn`t know Rodney real well when I hired him. He has made probably as good an impression on our campus as any member of our staff has in a very short period of time," Boyle said. "Our players love him. He has a great demeanor about him. He`s very laid back, he`s fun to be around, he doesn`t let things get to him. Rodney is not a high-stress guy, and I think that comes through when you`re around him. And he has worked extremely hard. There is no sense of entitlement that you think would come with a guy like him."

Last week Boyle spoke to a group of supporters. During his moonlit stroll across campus he thought about the full-circle basketball journey from high school champion to CU head coach.

"I kind of had to pinch myself," Boyle said. "I`m lucky to be where I`m at and to have this opportunity. I want to bring some pride to Colorado basketball, to this state, to this city. I`m dedicated to doing that.

"I`m fully invested, to use a stock term."