SANDY— Danny Reeder thought the elation he felt when he and his teammates earned the 5A boys basketball state championship Saturday couldn't be equaled.
Then, during a Tuesday morning assembly, as he and the rest of the Alta student body chanted the name of head coach Tony Cannon, who left Utah six weeks ago for active duty in the military, he realized he was wrong.
"It was an amazing feeling," said the senior captain. "I think that was equal to winning the state championship."
Reeder was the first player across the floor to embrace Cannon at half court as the rest of the student body gave the coach-soldier a standing ovation. Reeder wiped tears from his eyes as he and the coach emerged from the crowd arm-in-arm.
"He's a great man," Reeder said. "In my book, he's a hero."
Cannon thanked the students for supporting his players and then thanked coach Dave Pimm, who took over head coaching duties after Cannon's reserve unit was activated halfway through the season. Both men credited the other with the team's success and stood together with the team as the trophy was officially presented to them by UHSAA executive director Evan Excell.
As they both made their way to the back of the crowd, Pimm reached into his pocket and pulled out part of the net from the title game at Weber State. He handed it to Cannon and the two embraced.
Cannon said he was planning to be part of a video production when leave became available and he decided to come home for a few days instead. He flew to Salt Lake City on Monday night, but only a handful of people knew Cannon was home and would be attending the assembly honoring winter activities.
While Cannon regrets missing the team's championship run, he said coming home in the middle of it would have been hard on the team.
"(Pimm's) margin of victory was better than mine," he said smiling, "The boat was going in the right direction. I might have said one or two things that would have helped, but it would have been a bigger risk."
He credits his five seniors' leadership and Pimm's coaching abilities for Alta's title. Cannon said he heard that Alta was trailing while listening to the BYU game on the radio.
"Then I just drove around Colorado Springs for about two hours," he said. "I was a nervous wreck."
He said he's not really jealous that Pimm got to coach the team to the title, just that he got to enjoy spending time with the players.
"Whether you win a state championship or not," he said. "That just makes everything worthwhile."