Courtesy Ron Smeltzer
Published Friday, Jan. 30, 2009 | 1:55 p.m.
Updated Friday, Jan. 30, 2009 | 9:16 p.m.
Greg Spencer, Cimarron-Memorial's first football coach who led the school to two state championships in 1998 and 1999, died of throat cancer Friday morning, Cimarron Principal Karen Stanley said.
He was 52.
Spencer had been an automotive repair and drivers education teacher at Cimarron since the school opened in 1991. He coached the football team through the 2000 season.
"Greg was a dynamic personality in the classroom and on the field," Stanley said. "He has shaped so many people in this valley, from football players to businessmen, to other coaches through the valley who have had him as a mentor. That's an amazing legacy to leave."
A memorial service will be held at Cimarron at 2 p.m. on Feb. 8.
Spencer originally moved to Las Vegas from Colorado to play guard for UNLV in the mid-1970s. As a Rebel, he played under offensive line coach Ron Smeltzer, who years later joined Spencer's staff at Cimarron as an assistant coach from 1995-2000.
After Smeltzer took over as Cimarron's head coach in 2003, Spencer returned to coaching, this time as an assistant from 2003-2006.
Smeltzer, who was head coach at Cimarron through 2007, said he thought Spencer was good enough to coach at the college level.
"He had a special knack for being able to handle kids and being able to read kids," Smeltzer said. "He was a hard guy but he was very fair. And I haven't seen too many coaches put in as much time as he did. Time was no object to him. Whatever it took for him to get things done is what he would do."
Smeltzer said he was informed of Spencer's death through a phone call from Spencer's son Chase, who told him Spencer died at 9:09 a.m. at home.
Smeltzer said his favorite memory of Spencer came when Cimarron defeated Reno McQueen 21-7 for the 1999 state championship in Reno.
"We must have gone for it on fourth down five times in the third quarter," Smeltzer said. "I looked at Greg and said, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' And he was like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' As a result, we kept the ball almost the entire third quarter. When the fourth quarter came around, McQueen wasn't so peppy. Greg was one of the best coaches I've ever known."
Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost, the president of the Southern Nevada Coaches Association, said Spencer had a profound impact on football in the Las Vegas Valley.
"He changed Southern Nevada football. He was the first coach (in Las Vegas) that started going to team camp," Rost said. "When you played against him, he had you scouted. He would give you different looks and always figure out a way to break you down."
"A lot of programs are molded after what he did at Cimarron. He's a legend."
Cimarron Athletic Director Calvin Valvo had known Spencer since before he began the Spartan football program. Valvo was an assistant coach with Spencer from 1986 until 1990 at Valley High. Before that, Spencer was an assistant at Chaparral from 1979-1985, Valvo said.
"For the 24 years I've known him, I can't think of a negative moment I had with Greg," Valvo said. "You can't say that about too many people. I learned so much about coaching football and so much about learning how to deal with kids from him."
Cimarron's current football coach, Rod Vollan, who also has been coaching at Cimarron since the school opened, called Spencer "the best person to work with imaginable."
"He was incredibly prepared and, as a coach, you wanted to model that," Vollan said. "He had the most incredible determination you could imagine. He was a great problem-solver, and he was a tremendously loyal individual."
Vollan said Cimarron is thinking of a way to honor Spencer when the football team takes the field in the fall.
"We will give that careful thought so it is meaningful and respectful," Vollan said. "It's safe to say the football team will honor coach Spencer's memory and contributions next year."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.