A friendship that extends past the court
Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series about Eric Reuter and Gary Price. Today, The Record-Courier looks at a lifelong friendship that has extended for nearly 50 years.
Many words have been used to describe the impact Eric Reuter and Gary Price left nearly 40 years ago as part of their basketball legacy at Douglas High School. Among those, though, they are perhaps remembered best by those who were closest to them as the “Nerd Brothers.”
They liked to refer to themselves as Stud No. 1 and Stud No. 2, that is, until the spring of their sophomore year when assistant track and field coach Rick Booth came up with another suggestion.
“Coach Booth said, ‘No, you guys are Nerd No. 1 and Nerd No. 2, and we’ve been that ever since,” Price said, laughing. “We were really square.”
Make no mistake about it, they were ultra competitive when it came to anything they did. And, theirs is an uncommon friendship forged from having grown up together, played ball together, won a high school state basketball championship together in 1978-79, and so much more.
Have the lessons and experiences they learned from athletics paid off?
“It was huge,” Reuter said. “I truly believe that sports are one of the most important things, even if it’s individual sports or whatever. Teaching discipline, teamwork, camaraderie, focus and being able to go on when things are tough and learn not to give up. There are so many things you learn in athletics that I think are really important for life. I know it’s helped me get through some really tough times, both professionally and personally. You just have to suck it up and get back on the court.”
Price took it one step further when he dished out an assist to his friend and teammate.
“My dad often said having the right peers makes a big difference, and he was absolutely right,” he said. “Having a peer who has the same passion as you and is willing to push you creates a situation where you’re pushing each other to do better, academically and athletically. I often credit Eric for getting me into Annapolis. Eric pushed me academically and I pushed him physically. We were a really good combination and we seemed to catapult each other along.”
The sky seemed to be the limit for both after graduating from Douglas. Price received an appointment to the Naval Academy, while Reuter played two seasons at Hartnell College and two more seasons at U.C. Davis. Reuter, in his second season at Hartnell was an all-conference selection who averaged 12.3 points and 16 rebounds per game in 1980-81. That same season, Price was Navy’s leading rebounder as a freshman (7.3) and third leading scorer (8.7 points).
Price graduated from Navy in May 1984 with a degree in oceanography and a minor in engineering — one of his basketball teammates was a young David Robinson, who would go on to become a 10-time NBA All-Star and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee — and the distinction of setting Navy’s record for most career games played. Price was preparing to join an oceanographic research ship in the Mediterranean when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver on a Virginia expressway in June, damaging his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. He spent the next year in rehabilitation before returning to the home in Gardnerville where he lives today.
“If you ask me about my heroes in life, Gary Price is definitely one of them, and it doesn’t have anything to do with anything he did on the court,” Green said. “When they flew him back out here after the accident, Karen and I went to visit at the veterans hospital in Palo Alto. Just all the medical stuff, it was real hard. So to watch him come out, he helped me coach, he got his business, he’s married to a wonderful lady and he has never said one word ever about, ‘Why did this happen?’ It always amazed me how he rebounded without complaining, he just went on and became successful at everything he ever did.”
Price parlayed his education and passion for cars and electronics into success as founder and owner of Exotic Car Stereo in Carson City from 1989 until his retirement in January 2008.
“My competition at the time, Unique Sounds (& Auto Access), hired all my old employees, so I still go in and I volunteer once or twice a week,” Price said. “It’s like a reunion all the time so I really enjoy it.”
Both men have their own families today. Gary and Beth Price are approaching their 20th anniversary, while Eric and Sherri Reuter were just married back in the fall in Hope Valley. Reuter also has a daughter from a previous marriage, Katrina Reuter, who now plays professional volleyball in Europe.
Reuter received his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering from U.C. Davis and later accepted a position at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Among his recent business ventures was a seven-year run as CEO for Laserscope.
“It was an adventure,” said Reuter. “The company was near bankruptcy when I took over and then we launched a product that is now standard care around the world for treating prostate disease. So it was quite a run and a lot of fun. Now I’m working on what the next big thing is.”
Not surprisingly, it was an athletic adventure that brought Reuter and Price together for the first time when they were sixth grade students at the old Woodfords School located on a hillside near Woodfords Station, where his father, Gerry Price, was one of two teachers.
“Boxing was in so we’d bring boxing gloves (for P.E. class); the week before I met Eric, my dad says, ‘Son, you’re going to take on Maurice George,’ who was three years older than me and a Golden Gloves champion,” Price recalled. “So I do a couple of these to him (demonstrating jabs) and he comes back, wham, wham, and I’m flying through the air and hit my head on the table. So, the next week, my dad, goes, ‘Son, I’ve got someone else for you to box and he’s about your size.’ And, I’m like, great. So that’s how I met Eric … he gave me a bloody nose and I chipped his tooth.”
Added Reuter: “I actually still have the chip on my tooth.”
Their parents were longtime fixtures in the Alpine County community: Gerry and Jeannine Price, Dick and Jeanne Reuter. Gerry Price, who had played college basketball at North Carolina State, taught and coached in Woodfords before his retirement. Dick Reuter was the ski patrol director at Squaw Valley during the 1960 Winter Olympics and later served as Mountain Manager at Kirkwood from 1972 until 1991. The two men passed away within a month of each other in July 2011.
“It was kind of cool because people come up and say how much they loved my dad. And it’s neat about Randy, I run into people all the time who say how much they love him,” Price said.
With so much experience from education, athletics and professional careers, what advice do then “Nerd Brothers” have to offer to young student-athletes today?
“I see kids, and they don’t think long term,” Price said. “They want it now and they want it easier. They don’t realize it’s going to take one, two or three years of practice and to do that consistently to get to the point where they want to be in the long term.”
Green remembers how Reuter and Price would stay in the gym after practice to work on their individual basketball skills.
“Love the game,” Reuter said. “Don’t play if you don’t love what you’re doing; work at what you love doing. Find something you’re really passionate about, and then don’t give up. The future is the judgmental father of the present. So whatever you do now, you will either reap the rewards or you will suffer the consequences. It’s really simple and people make it really complicated sometimes, but you have to work really, really hard in whatever you do in life.”