He has the competitive spirit
Gary Price has always been a competitor.
During his days at Douglas High in the late 1970s, it didn’t matter if Price was playing basketball or putting together a car-stereo system – his two favorite pastimes. He always wanted to do things better.
Four years at the U.S. Naval Academy playing basketball and studying to become a naval officer further developed that attitude.
Price’s inner drive has served him well.
One week after graduating from the Naval Academy, on June 30, 1984, Price was paralyzed from the chest down when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking along the shoulder of a tollway in Virginia Beach, Va.
Price accepted what would have been a major setback for most people as just another challenge.
“Gary never, ever said, ‘Why did this happen to me?'” said Randy Green, who coached the Douglas basketball team in Price’s final two seasons. “He just kept moving forward. That’s the most amazing thing to me.”
Said Price: “It doesn’t slow me down.”
And it hasn’t tempered his competitive nature.
Price customized a van in 1986 and started entering car-stereo contests in 1987. The van’s stereo system eventually featured 1,200 watts of power and 26 speakers.
“Once you start competing, you really have to know what you’re doing,” he said. “I was spending 10 hours a day at those stereo shops getting ready for competitions. I saw the way the shops were being run and I saw lots of room for improvement.”
Five years after he was hurt, Price opened Exotic Car Audio in the In And Out Auto Center in Carson City. The shop sells and installs stereos and speakers for everything from the family car to the high-end systems that can compete with the best car stereos in the world.
“We do everything from mild to wild,” Price said. “You need someone who has a good feel for the wild to be able to take care of the mild.”
Exotic Car Audio is sponsoring the Silver Dollar Sound Off, Aug. 1-2, at Mills Park in Carson City. The event will feature a Classic Car Competition for vehicles that are entered in the Silver Dollar Car Classic as well as an International Auto Sound Challenge Association competition for vehicles in 10 different categories. Systems will be judged on sound quality, installation and sound pressure level.
Price has devoted most of his attention to running Exotic Car Audio during the last decade, but he still has found time to participate in a variety of wheelchair sports. He won gold medals in softball and table tennis and a silver medal in quad rugby last summer at the 17th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in San Diego.
Price also used that trip to San Diego to propose to his girlfriend, Beth MacKay. Gary and Beth, who met at a friend’s barbecue party three years ago, recently eloped. They were married in a ceremony in Florence, Italy, on May 7 and spent two months in Europe.
“Those cobblestone streets made getting around Italy tough,” Price laughed. “I had to repair my chair twice.”
At the time of the accident, Price was two days away from leaving for his first naval assignment as an oceanography science officer on a naval research ship near Athens, Greece.
Price, who had been out with friends the night he was injured, had gotten out of the car he was riding in about a half-mile from home so the driver wouldn’t have to exit the tollway and then have to pay to get back on.
The motorist who hit Price didn’t stop at the accident scene. The driver’s father called police the next morning to report the damage to the car.
According to Price, when the police officers arrived at the driver’s house, one of the passengers who had been in the car was still passed out drunk. At the time in Virginia, driving under the influences charges couldn’t be pursued more than six hours after an incident, Price said.
More than six hours after Price was hit, the police found him lying facedown in tall grass beside the road.
“The only thing I remember about the accident is having grass in my face and the smell of grass,” Price said. “The guy told the judge he thought someone had thrown a brick at him and that he was afraid to stop his car. The judge dropped the (hit-and-run) charges.”
The collision broke Price’s neck between the 6th and 7th cervicals. He was hospitalized for one year – three months on the East Coast and nine months at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical Center in California.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw him,” said Green, Price’s basketball coach at Douglas High. “He was laying on a bed of glass beads at the (California hospital) and was fading in and out of consciousness.
“I remember getting in the car in Palo Alto and Karen (Randy’s wife) and I cried all the way across the Bay Bridge. Knowing he was never going to walk again was tough for me, but it was much tougher for him.”
Green had the good fortune of taking over the Douglas boys’ varsity basketball team when two of the best players in the program’s history were entering their junior years.
Price, at 6 feet 7 inches, and Eric Reuter, at 6-6, formed a high-low post tandem that developed into a nearly unstoppable force.
During Green’s first season, the Tigers were 21-6 and finished third in the state in AA play. The following year, Douglas High won the AA state championship, beat every AAA Reno team it played and complied a 29-4 record while winning by an average of 18 points per game.
Price and Reuter were named Nevada Co-Players of the Year as seniors.
“I think if you ask people, and I know I biased but, I think people will say that 1978-79 team is the best basketball team Douglas High has ever had,” Green said. “That was a team coaches dream about getting.
“Offensively, we were very difficult to stop, we had great outside shooters and we were a very athletic group.”
Reuter went on to play basketball at U.C. Davis.
Price and Reuter met for the first time in the sixth grade when they were paired up for a boxing match in a physical education class.
“He gave me a bloody nose and I gave him a chipped tooth and we’ve been best friends ever since,” Price laughed.
The laugh comes easily for Price.
As he moves through his store talking with customers about car stereos, Price exudes enthusiasm. His eyes light up as he punches the buttons that send music pulsing through the different speakers on the wall. It doesn’t take long for the visitor to forget the fact that Price is in a wheelchair.
“People always ask me if I have any heroes and I tell them Gary is one of my heroes,” Green said. “I certainly admire his basketball skills, but what he’s been able to accomplish since the accident is incredible and inspirational.
“We invited him to speak at graduation one year and I still have people tell me that is one of the best speeches they’ve ever heard.”
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