The door opened and the intimidating presence emerged from an aircraft that had spent the last few hours five miles high, both literally and figuratively. Sonny Holland wore a leather jacket and a cowboy hat, the personification of Butte tough. The stout Bobcat legend held in his hands the NCAA Championship trophy, the second the greatest Bobcat of them all helped Montana State bring back to Bozeman.
As Holland stood atop the airplane stairs and looked out onto the runway, the throngs of locals waiting to welcome the Bobcats home burst into an ovation.
“I can still see it right now, 40 years later, that exact moment,” Bert Markovich said earlier this week. “That’s the defining memory of that moment, one of the pinnacle moments in all our lives.”
Forty years ago, Holland reached the pinnacle as a coach, replicating a feat he achieved 20 years earlier as a player. With each anniversary, each decade that passes, Bobcats’ run to the 1976 national championship becomes more entrenched in the lore of the Gallatin Valley. As Holland walked off the plane holding the national championship trophy, Mr. Bobcat stood on top of the world.