Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | 4:35 p.m.
If you are looking for Frank Nails on a Friday night in the fall, you might want to check the bleachers at a local high school football game.
Nails just can’t stay away from the event he loves.
The 73-year-old Nails spent 37 years as a high school coach and administrator in Las Vegas, winning a pair of state championships, countless coaching accolades and influencing the lives of thousands of area children.
This summer, he’ll add another prestigious award to his resume.
He’ll be inducted June 8 into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, joining UNLV basketball legend Stacey Augmon, former UNLV soccer player Simon Keith, the Las Vegas Founders Club and Duke Durden, a respected former Nevada State Athletic Commission member and boxing promoter. Durden passed away in 2000.
The class was announced Tuesday during a press conference outside the hall’s headquarters at the Galleria Mall inside the Findlay Automotive Group store.
“I’m honored. More than that, I’m humbled,” Nails said. “More than that, I’m surprised. But, most of all, I’m appreciative. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in some halls, and I’m very proud and respectful and humbled by those honors. But, when they started this one, I thought: ‘Boy, I would like to be in there one day.’ ”
Nails is also part of the local football coaches association and Nevada Interscholastic Activities Associations halls, but he doesn’t view himself as one of the town’s legends.
He was simply doing his job. Talk with others and they will tell you it’s a job well done.
“He has been the most gracious recipient I think I have ever dealt with in all of the years I have been here,” said Dan Dolby, an assistant football coach at Faith Lutheran and the Hall of Fame’s past chairman. “He is a humble man. Just a real salt-of-the-earth type of guy who did a lot for this community.”
Nails started his coaching career in 1965 at Rancho High School as the Rams’ assistant football and baseball coach, and head wrestling coach. He moved to Bishop Gorman the following year, coaching the football team to its first large-school state title in 1970. In those days, Gorman had an enrollment of about 500 students, struggling to compete against the likes of powerhouse public schools Rancho and Western.
But Nails wasn’t fazed in the role of the underdog, gaining the reputation of being one of the area’s great football coaching minds and motivator of teenagers. His other state championship came as an offensive coordinator at Western High in 1976.
“I never had a losing season, but it wasn’t because of me,” Nails said. “I was blessed with some good athletes and some even better kids.”
Nails spent the final 20 years of his career as an administrator at Las Vegas High before retiring in 1997. He helped supervise the school’s move from downtown Las Vegas to East Sahara Avenue, and hired Kris Cinkovich as the Wildcats’ football coach. Cinkovich transformed Las Vegas’ program into one of the best in state history — it won state titles in 2001, 2005 and 2006.
Fittingly, the football stadium at Las Vegas was named “Frank Nails Field.”
Nails retired to Summerlin and frequently attends Palo Verde High games — he hired coach Darwin Rost at Las Vegas in the 1980s. He never misses the annual football game between Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman, typically the two best Las Vegas teams playing in front of a soldout crowd.
“I miss Friday nights an awful lot,” Nails said.
• Augmon, one of the stars of UNLV’s 1990 national championship basketball team, returned to Las Vegas this year as one of the Rebels’ assistant coaches. He had to miss Tuesday’s announcement while on the recruiting trail — the open recruiting period ends this week.
“Stacey Augmon isn’t here, but he needs no introduction, does he?” said Dick Calvert, UNLV’s longtime public address announcer and a member of the hall who served as the press conference’s master of ceremonies.
Augmon, whose No. 32 is retired by UNLV, starred with Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony in leading UNLV to consecutive Final Four appearances in 1990 and 1991. He’s also part of the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame.
• Durden started in the local sports scene as a supervisor at Dula Recreation Center and official with the Southern Nevada Officials Association, eventually becoming the first black official in college’s Western Athletic Conference. In 1978, he broke the color barrier again in being appointed to the commission.
The commission’s policy that at least one Nevada judge be used for local cards stems from a dispute Durden had in the 1970s with the World Boxing Association, which wanted to use all outside officials for a fight at Caesars Palace.
• Keith, who was the first overall pick of the Major Indoor Soccer League in the late 1980s after playing at UNLV, is believed to be the first professional athlete to compete after undergoing a heart transplant. Prior to playing at UNLV, Keith was diagnosed with myocarditis, a deterioration of the heart muscle, and received a heart transplant.
In 2011, he founded the Simon Keith Foundation, an organization that increases donor awareness and educates recipients.
• The Las Vegas Founders Club has operated the local PGA Tour stop the past 25 years, giving more than $12 million to local charities from money raised at tournament activities.
The induction is June 8 at the Orleans Arena. Visit www.sportshalloffame.net for details.