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Mailbag leftover: 10 best Northern Nevada boys basketball high school coaches ever

High school basketball
Here are the 10 best boys basketball coaches in Northern Nevada history. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On occasion, a Monday Mailbag question warrants its own headline and a complete story dedicated to itself, which we call a "Mailbag leftover." I got such a question this week from reader Berry, a self-reported DVD store owner who asked me to list the best basketball and baseball coaches in Northern Nevada high school sports after I did such a list for football. I'll start with boys basketball this week and plan on doing girls basketball next week. Not sure I have the knowledge to do baseball, but I can try for that down the road, too. But today? Here's our boys basketball list.

Honorable mentions: Bill Ballinger; Chelle Dalager; Fred Gladding; Paul Gray; Frank Jordan; Jake Lawlor; Hugh Gallagher Sr.; Dave Christiansen; Brian Voyles; Bruce Barnes; Pat Hart

10. Phil Bryant: There are plenty of coaches deserving of this spot, but I'm going with an off-the-radar choice in Bryant, who is 165-48 since taking over at Whittell High in 2012, which includes four state tournament appearances and two 1A state titles (2014, 2016). Five of Bryant's eight seasons at the helm of the Warriors have ended with four losses or fewer. In the seven seasons prior to his hiring, Whittell was 40-135. And he did it in football, too! Bryant was Whittell's football coach for four seasons (2015-18) and went 38-8 with three state tournament berths after the program went 20-66 in the 10 seasons prior to his hiring. The dude is amazing. So why don't more people know about him? He didn't move to Nevada until a decade ago. That was after 37 years at Westwood (Calif.) High in Lassen County where he won nearly 700 basketball games and had the school's court named after him.

9. Chris Klekas: It's tough to put Klekas in over Fallon's Chelle Dalager given the Greenwave have beaten Elko in each of the last two 3A state title games (both on buzzer-beating threes in overtime by Elijah Jackson), but I'm going to give the nod to longevity and award this spot to Klekas, whose 444 career wins rank sixth all-time in the state and second among coaches from the North (and that doesn't count his wins at Jackpot High, which easily give him more than 500 victories). Klekas has turned Elko into a basketball machine, in large part because he always has one or two sons who are the team's stars. No, he hasn't won a state title, but he has eight regional championships and has reached nine straight 3A state tournaments.

8. Aubrey McCreary: McCreary is a hard one to pin down because based on his ability to simply coach basketball, he'd be first or second on this list. But if we're basing it based on résumé in terms of total wins, regional titles and state championships, it's a different story. McCreary was the head coach at Douglas, Reno, Wooster and Hug, but he's on the list because he's one of the world's best player-development coaches who has worked with clients like Derek Fisher, Deron Williams, and Paul Millsap, among others. As a result, we have to put him somewhere in the top 10. McCreary has coached basketball at every level from high school to AAU to college to the NBA with more than 40 years of coaching experience.

7. Pete Padgett: The patriarch of the Reno's first family of basketball — Pete's dad coached Nevada, Pete starred at Nevada, his son was a McDonald's All-American at Reno High and his daughter was a Husky star before playing at San Diego — Padgett posted a 373-219 record in 15 seasons at Carson and seven more years at Reno over two stints (he was an assistant at UC Santa Barbara in between). Padgett never was able to squeeze out a state title, but he did just about everything else during his coaching run and was a hugely influential figure both for local high school basketball and Nevada Wolf Pack basketball from 1970-2000. Padgett ranks fourth among Northern coaches in career wins, per the NIAA record book.

6. Kyle Schellin: A 1994 Carson High graduate, Schellin didn't have the longevity of most on this list, but he had a big impact in his short time on the bench. He was mentored by Pete Padgett, Eric Swain and others before taking over at Reno High in 2005. He won state titles with the Huskies in 2006 and 2008 before resigning in 2012. He posted a 134-67 record in seven seasons and is one of two local high school coaches to win two large-class state titles in the last 50 years, the other being No. 1 on this list, so we need to make a spot for Schellin. If you exclude South Tahoe High, which is technically located in California, Schellin has two of the North's three large-class state championships won in the last 44 years.

5. Tom Maurer: The long-time, hard-driving Bob Knight discipline coached at Galena High for two decades and won 336 games with the Grizzlies, the fifth most by a Northern Nevada boys basketball coach. Maurer won seven regional titles and a large-class state championship in 2007 with future NBA player Luke Babbitt, who he coached to a McDonald's All-American berth. Maurer was controversially fired by Galena in 2012 because parents didn't like his intense measures (after he was fired, 49 of his players, including Babbitt, wrote a letter backing him.) Maurer, who has sent a number of players to Division I ball, recently had a three-year stint at Virginia City and a two-year stint at Hug.

4. Tom Andreasen: A great player at Virginia City, Andreasen won two state titles with the Muckers (1959, 1962) as a player before playing for the Nevada Wolf Pack. He stayed in the area to coach and is considered one of the founding fathers of modern high school basketball in Northern Nevada. Andreasen won 212 games as the coach at Virginia City (1969-1972) and Carson (1972-1982, 98-2000) and was inducted into the NIAA Hall of Fame in 2002. He won a state title at Virginia City in 1972 and added a state championship at Carson in 1975 (it wasn't until 2006 until a team in the Carson/Reno/Sparks area won another large-class state championship). In 2017, Carson's court was named after Andreasen.

3. Wint King: King, a 2010 inductee into the NIAA Hall of Fame, is revered as one of the most knowledgeable, savvy and entertaining coaches in Northern Nevada history as evidenced by his five Nevada state coach of the year honors (1971, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1982). King's Nevada prep coaching career started at Mineral County High with a five-year run beginning in 1953 before stints at Fallon (1960-72) and Reno (1972-1987). His 514 wins are the third most in state history and the most for a boys coach in Northern Nevada. King won two state titles with Fallon (1966, 1971) before his successful run with the Huskies, where he won three regional championships. He also won a state baseball title coaching at Fallon.

2. Lyle Damon: A Winnemucca native who played for the Wolf Pack, Damon led Virginia City to five state titles in six seasons in the 1960s while posting an incredible 130-5 record, including a 55-game winning streak (and Virginia City was the best team in the area during that period despite being a lower-class school). Damon was Hug's first head coach, where he went 73-29 and coached the team to a state runner-up showing in 1971 in his four years there before he became the head coach at San Francisco State for a decade. He returned to Northern Nevada to coach at Reed, Wooster (assistant), Hug, Carson, Sparks, Galena (assistant) and Damonte Ranch (assistant), leaving his mark on a number of local programs. His coaching reputation spread not only across Nevada and the West Coast but throughout the nation, and he impacted several local schools (leading three to the state tournament).

1. Tom Orlich: Orlich was hired as South Tahoe's coach in 1976 and turned the Vikings from a downtrodden program that had no reason winning into a regional powerhouse. He posted a 521-177 record, winning nearly 75 percent of his games, and captured 17 division titles, nine regional titles as well as two state crowns (1987, 1992). His two state title-winning teams went a combined 51-2, and his 1991-92 squad was ranked No. 19 in the nation while Orlich was named the California and Nevada coach of the year despite South Tahoe not being in the CIF. He was the head coach of the West team in the the 1989 McDonald's All-American game (Shaquille O'Neal was his starting center). After 25 years at South Tahoe, he left the program and was hired by Clovis West near Fresno in 2002 where he went 311-99 in 14 seasons, including eight conference titles, eight sectional final appearances and the CIF Southern California Regional Championship in 2006. Orlich's 832 all-time wins are the third most in California. He's in his fifth season at Stanford as the assistant to the head coach Jerod Haase, the star of his 1992 state title team.

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