In his last interview as a varsity basketball player at Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Daniel Wright had a pretty interesting answer to a question after the game.
“It’s tough, my family has a large history of runner-up finishes,” said Wright. “I was hoping to be the first champion.”
You hear a lot of regret in post game interviews following a loss in the State championship, but this was a new one. One that required a quick check on the Wright family tree to see just how far back the second-place finishes go.
“Little Laurens, one class tournament, 1962, we got second place,” said Daniel’s grandfather Denny Wright. “I was a sophomore, and I didn’t dress.”
“My junior year, in 1990, we got beat in the championship game,” said Daniel’s father Jeff Wright.
“We thought we could have been the best team in the state and won a State title, but we just came up a little bit short,” said Daniel’s uncle Jay Wright.
“2017 we had a lead with maybe 30 seconds left in that game, and having a heartbreaking loss like that, it stunk,” said Daniel’s older brother Jackson Wright.
Three generations of Wrights, with five different players, all finishing runner-up in their state championship games, and all bonding over the experience.
“The fact that we’ve all finished second is something that’s pretty cool,” said Daniel. “It’s something that nobody can take away from us, obviously. We’re still proud of it, whether it’s first or second.”
“I don’t look back at those years and think ‘ah we finished second,'” said Jay. “I look back and remember all the crazy stuff on road trips, in the locker room, before practice. All those are the memories you have.”
“It’s a pretty incredible opportunity and good fortune over a period of many years that we’ve all gotten the chance to be that close,” said Jeff. “Rest assured that if Daniel had won the other night he would have announced that he was the first in his family to win a title as a player.”
But the second place finishes aren’t the only way the Wrights have participated at the State tournament.
“I was the head coach at Boyden-Hull for a couple of years,” said Denny. “That didn’t go so good. I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. But then I became the athletic director, and in 1987 we started going to the State tournament. So I got back as an athletic director.”
“The first time I reffereed at the State tournament was in 2003,” said Jeff. “Got to do two girls State championship games, three boys State championship games, the most memorable of which was when Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes were seniors at Ames high school in 2010.”
“I decided I was going to just teach at Heelan, and I was the freshman coach for one year, then I was the sophomore coach, and really fortunate I got to be at the State tournament a bunch of those years,” said Jay. “My first year we went to the State final, the next year we got beat in the first round, then won three straight State titles in 2009, 2010, and 2011.”
As for the younger Wright brothers, their State experience resulted in starting a run for SB-L, who hadn’t been to State since 1940 before Jackson led the Warriors to Des Moines in 2017.
“Being able to get the ball rolling,” said Jackson. “That was more on the forefront of my mind, especially during when it happened, and a few years after. But now being able to look at it as, my family has been, we have our fingerprints all over the State tournament.”
“As a freshman I was brought onto the team for our postseason run,” said Daniel.
“He was the last guy on the bench. Wasn’t going to get in until we were up by 40,” joked Jackson.
“And I’ve told everybody since that that was the greatest week of my life,” said Daniel.
But the greatest week of his life wasn’t something Daniel wanted to keep to himself.
“I wanted my friends to experience the same thing that I did getting to stay the whole week,” said Daniel. “I think the guys on the team this year can attest to that. It’s one of the greatest weeks of your life.”
The headline of the Wright family is all those second place finishes. But the true story, is how no matter what, through three generations, the State tournament has been affected in one way or another the Wright way.