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Murray's Mailbag: Who is the best high school football coach in Reno's history?

McQueen High
Ken Dalton built{ }McQueen High into the top football program in Northern Nevada for two decades. (McQueen High Football)

We start this week's Monday Mailbag on a somber note. Over the weekend, my family and I camped at Logger Campground next to Stampede Reservoir. My tweet below asking for Monday Mailbag questions recorded Saturday was one of three major cracks of lightning we got in a five-minute period. It was announced today a 47-year-old man died after being struck by lightning while on a jet ski at Stampede Reservoir, about a half-mile from our campsite (we had left the lake about 30 minutes prior). That man, Eugene Arao, was on the jet ski with his son when hit by the bolt, marking the ninth lightning-related fatality in the U.S. this year. Keep the Arao family in your thoughts and prayers.

(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome.)

As you mentioned, you didn't ask a real question, so I will for you. Where does coach Ken Dalton rank on the all-time list of local high school football coaches? Let's rank the top 10. This list only weighs the coach's accomplishments at the high school level, so you won't see Chris Ault, who coached Bishop Manogue and Reno, on the list.

10. I'm going to name a bunch of coaches here so nobody gets mad, including Duke Drakulich, Edwin "Tip" Whitehead, Lou Micheo, Will Sandy, Gene Scattini, Gary Lundergreen, Jeff Knutson, Dave Hart, Dave McLean and Shawn Dupris, who will be in the top 10 before he's done at Damonte Ranch.

9. Mike Rippee: Rippee's Douglas Tigers didn't have a lot of postseason success -- no Regional titles -- but his teams were a formidable foe. Rippee coached Douglas from 1985-2012 and posted a 139-125 record (100-70 in his last 16 seasons). Rippee, whose 139 wins rank tied for sixth among Northern coaches, was inducted into the NIAA Hall of Fame in 2014.

8. Rollins Stallworth: The former Nevada player did amazing things at Hug High, a school that typically struggles with numbers (and with wins, which we've seen since his retirement after the 2009 season). From 1993-2009, Stallworth ran one of the North's most impressive programs, which included a 4A state title game berth in 2005. Hug's field is named after him.

7. Dan Avansino: Avansino was the long-time Reno High coach before controversially being fired after the 2018 season following his comments about Bishop Manogue during halftime of a playoff game. A former McQueen High star, he coached the Huskies for 17 years and won a 2003 state title, marking the only non-McQueen state crown by a North team since 1996.

6. Dick Trachok: Trachok is known mostly for his time at Nevada, where he was a standout player (his No. 21 is retired), a coach (he went 40-48-3 in 10 seasons) and athletic director (he hired Chris Ault as Nevada's head football coach), but he also was Reno High's football coach for 10 seasons (1949-58) and won six state titles, including four in a row from 1949-52.

5. Bob Shaffer: Shaffer built a powerhouse at Truckee High, which technically is in California but plays in the NIAA given its proximity to the border. Coaching the Wolverines from 1995-2012, Shaffer won 170 games (fifth most in state history), including 41 in a row from 2009-12 before retiring. He won nine Class 3A state titles, including four in a row from 2009-12.

4. Herb Foster: The field at Reno High is named after Foster, who led the Huskies to 119 victories and nine state titles, including five in a row, from 1923-1948. He also led Reno to six state basketball titles and three in track and field. He was a legend before most of us were born but shaped local sports in the first half of the 20th century.

3. Ernie Howren: The biggest thing missing on Howren's record is a state championship, although the other coaches on this list didn't have to deal with Bishop Gorman at its peak. Howren's 173 career wins rank fourth in state history behind Joe Sellers, Ken Dalton and the South's Ken Higbee. He's won nine Regional titles during his time at Reed and Manogue.

2. Joe Sellers: Sellers won nine state titles (one shy of the state record), including seven in the large class at Wooster, where he went 206-34, including a 36-game win streak from 1985-87. He won two state titles at Bishop Manogue and compiled 250 career wins, the most in Nevada history. He's in the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

1. Ken Dalton: You can't go wrong with Sellers or Dalton at No. 1, but I tend to favor Dalton, who won 308 games (credited with 228 in Nevada since his 56 victories at North Tahoe from 1974-81 came prior to North Tahoe being an NIAA school). Dalton won 79.4 percent of his games, including 11 regional titles and six state championships (1990, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2008), five of which were perfect seasons. He built the program from scratch, including what I believe is the best team in Northern Nevada prep football history, the 2008 McQueen Lancers, followed by the 1992, 2000 and 2002 McQueen teams. He developed four future NFL players (the most of any local coach) in Chris Carr, Jeff Rowe, Kyle Van Noy and Clint Stitser as well as a future UFC star Ryan Bader. There were some issues, including a suspension in 2006 after allegedly striking two McQueen players as well as giving star players a little too much leeway in off-the-field behaviors, but Dalton is the best high school coach in Northern Nevada history, his RMA (Right. Mental. Attitude) motto impacting thousands of kids who went to McQueen High. Shortly after his death, five of the six High Desert League head coaches either played or coached under Dalton, which showed his impact on football in Reno. Dalton died of lung cancer in 2013 at age 66. Dalton was not only the father of Lancers football but of the entire McQueen High community.

I don't think it's anything huge to worry about considering each circumstance was different. If anything, I'd say it is a knock on the quality of quarterback Nevada has recruited. I think the misses are more on the recruiting side than anything else. Here's a breakdown of the quarterbacks who have recently left:

* Griffin Dahn: He was largely recruited for Nevada's "Belldozer" package, which coach Jay Norvell used at Oklahoma and Texas. The Wolf Pack tried that package for one game (at Northwestern in Norvell's first contest). It got stuffed on a hugely important fourth-down play and was never used again. Dahn transferred to Albany after the 2019 spring camp.

* Malik Henry: Nevada took a chance on the talented Henry, and he simply didn't have the discipline to do all of the things off the field to give himself a chance on it. He didn't enroll in classes at Nevada in January, and his name hasn't reappeared with any other colleges.

* Austin Kirksey: The Georgia native was a true freshman at Nevada last season, but due to a family health issue had to transfer home last January and will be a walk-on at Georgia. While Kirksey earned rave reviews as a person, I didn't see him as a potential starter at Nevada given the mechanics/arm strong combo.

* Kaymen Cureton: Cureton was a highly sought-after recruit as a defensive player but wanted to play quarterback in college, which whittled his options down to Nevada and New Mexico. He was pushed into action too early and toggled between offense and defense before transferring to Eastern Kentucky this summer. As a quarterback, he was best suited for the FCS.

* Kaiden Bennett: I documented here why Bennett transferred from Boise State to Nevada and then hit the portal (his father was diagnosed with cancer). He put up ridiculous high school numbers, but I see him more as an FCS-caliber quarterback.

So those are the five quarterbacks who have left since May 2019. Of those five, only Henry was an FBS-caliber quarterback in my eyes, and he clearly had his issues. I'm sure it is difficult to recruit a quarterback when you have a young entrenched starter like Strong, but I wouldn't pinpoint that as the main reasons you've see all the departures. Most of these guys aren't FBS players.

While Coach Norvell and Coach Ault have a strong relationship, I don't see that happening. Ault already makes $292,645.40 per year from his state pension plan, which is more than Nevada's offensive coordinator position pays. Why take on the headache when you're already making $300,000 per year in retirement? Ault as OC would be a fairly uncomfortable situation as well with the school's legendary coach being a coordinator. Despite his size, Ault casts a large shadow. You wouldn't want a "Who's running the program?" story line surrounding the team.

We had some statue talk to start last week's Monday Mailbag, but those things typically cost $150,000 to $200,000. So if somebody started a GoFundMe page or raised private donations to cover the costs and gave the money to the Wolf Pack, I assume Nevada would put up a statue of Marion Motley, who is relatively free of controversy, although a car accident he caused did lead to a death of a 60-year-old man while Motley played at Nevada. While that was tragic, I don't think anybody would petition against the creation of a Motley statue if somebody raised the money for it. As somebody who broke pro football's color barrier and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Motley is more than deserving of the gesture.

I find it hard to believe we'll be out of Phase 2 by Nevada football's season opener Aug. 28, and I'm not sure how the state would justify allowing crowds at Mackay Stadium during Phase 2, so I don't think you're nuts. The Reno Aces/Reno 1868 FC co-wrote a plan with the Las Vegas Aviators/Las Vegas Lights about getting fans in stadiums that was submitted to the Governor. Reno Aces/Reno 1868 FC president Eric Edelstein told NSN last week, "we were not given direct feedback on exactly whether Phase 3 triggers it, but we do believe Phase 3 is likely necessary. I don't think they're going to considering approving us when the state's in Phase 2." If that holds true with the Wolf Pack, I don't see fans in seats one month from today, but nothing is official there.

No. That'd be way too costly and doesn't make sense geographically. Are you going to ask 1,020 scholarship football players (85 per school) to go to one city while doing their schoolwork online to play football games? Not happening. I don't even think the NFL can pull off a bubble situation with all of its money.

It's a good question, but I don't think Reno's high cost of living, including housing, factors into whether the Wolf Pack lands/retains an assistant coach. I do know it was a major issue at San Jose State (and Stanford and Cal in the Pac-12). Former Nevada head coach Brian Polian, who was an assistant at Stanford, spoke about that during one of his Mountain West media days. When you look at SJSU, in particular, you have assistant coaches who make $100,000 to $120,000 a year, which is good for a normal person but not in the FBS coaching ranks, so there has been some issues there with housing at ridiculous prices. I don't think Nevada has reached that stage yet. You can still rent a good-sized house in Reno for $2,500 a month, and most assistants rent given how often they skip jobs.

Well, item one and three would cost way more than $2 million, so cross them off. And nobody is giving an athletic department a $2 million donation to pay down debt. So that leaves item two, the Hixson Park renovation, among your list of options. That thing was construction toward the beginning of The Great Recession, so it wasn't full completed and could use an upgrade. So could Peccole Park.

The answer right now is "No," but that could change a decade down the road when some fresh wounds heal, which makes me think Mark Fox could bring his Cal Bears to Lawlor Events Center in the near future since he's more than a decade removed from his Wolf Pack tenure. I'll put it at a 20 percent chance Eric Musselman coaches a game at Lawlor Events Center again. A lot can change over time.

I wouldn't call it a "Golden Age" for coaches/managers, but they should get more leash than usual because owners don't want to fire coaches and have to pay two coaches at one time given the decrease in revenue pro sports is seeing. The "Golden Age" for baseball managers is forever gone now that we know they don't really impact game results very much. Same in the NBA. The NFL is different, but with so much more pressure to win now in pro sports leagues, the "Golden Age" for managers/coaches is definitely behind us.

No. Coach Levens' contract runs through 2023, and if pro sports teams don't want to pay two coaches in the current environment, you better believe Group of 5 colleges don't want to pay two coaches in a non-revenue sport. The Wolf Pack has finished seventh out of 11 Mountain West teams in Levens' first three seasons as head coach. If we set the over/under at seventh place in 2020-21, I'd take the under. There are some established players (Amaya West, Nia Alexander, Da'Ja Hamilton), but it's a fairly sizable rebuild. Coach Levens will get three more years to iron things out.

I wasn't able to find that number with some quick Google searches, but I'd guess about 40 percent of MLB players played college ball. Twelve of the Dodgers' 30-man roster players played college ball, which is exactly 40 percent (I swear I guessed 40 percent before looking up the Dodgers' roster). Anyway, the NBA wants to make players go to college so it has a free developmental system and doesn't have to pay for a full minor-league system like MLB has to do. That's why MLB is trying to cut some of its minor-league teams (roughly 40 of them), so it can shift the player development onto colleges, saving it some expenses. Additionally, there's way more guesswork for NBA drafting players straight out of high school, so NBA teams get a more accurate read on prospects after a year of college. It's not so much about the removal of the one-year rule harming the NBA as it is about the NBA cutting expenses and increasing intel on draft picks.

We were scheduled to go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico in June before COVID-19. We even got the kids passports in January. So perhaps we'll go to Mexico, although eating all-inclusive, buffet-style food might not make the most sense right now. We also were planning on a trip to Disneyland in summer 2021 since my son has hit the 48-inch requirement for all rides, but I don't think we want to get into crowds that big even a year from now. So it's undetermined at this point, but I'd put my money on Mexico or Hawaii (probably Maui or Kauai). We have been doing 24- to 48-hour trips here and there this summer (Burney Falls, Greagle, Stampede, Boca) to try and get out of the house while social distancing. We just haven't visited Lake Tahoe since the outbreak due to crowd sizes, which sucks considering the proximity to Tahoe is the best thing about living in Reno.

This could honestly be the beginning of the end for the 2020 MLB season. It depends on how much the infection has traveled between teams. I mean, we can do without the Marlins, who are an irrelevant franchise. But if COVID-19 takes down double-digit players on multiple rosters, it's going to be tough to contain.

In terms of Dodgers versus Giants, congrats to San Francisco for splitting a four-game series, which has allowed Giants fans the opportunity to celebrate as if it just won a World Series. The Dodgers out-scored the Giants, 22-10, and hit .291/.388/.447 (.835 OPS) with two errors to the Giants' .215/.275/.277 (.552 OPS) with seven errors. The underlying stats were lopsided. Anything can happen in a four-game series. That's what makes baseball a fun and stupid game. It's also what makes the playoffs unpredictable.

Yep. It is. The Awful Awful was No. 1 when it came to Reno food items. It dated back to 1963 and almost anybody who grew up in Reno has eaten it. No. 1 drink item is a Picon Punch. I'm going to think on this and come up with a list of food items in the running to replace the Awful Awful as the No. 1 dish in Northern Nevada.

Are we sure Harrah's Steakhouse is closing just because the property was sold? I've heard mixed answers on that. But I'd rank them as follows (No. 1 being the worst thing):

5. Pending real estate collapse (I don't think Reno's market will suffer very much, plus housing is too expensive and could use a correction even if that kills my home value)

4. Closing of Harrah's Steakhouse (Diablo coffee!)

3. Riots (Nobody likes riots, but at least we're trying to grapple with systemic racism rather than simply ignoring it and letting it continue to happen, which we've done for decades)

2. Huge national debt ($26 trillion and counting!)

1. COVID-19 (It's hard to explain how poorly we've handled this as a country; it's one of the largest failures in American history)

Top 10 natural disasters, ranked, with the most deaths from each natural disaster in parentheses.

10. Volcanic eruption (71,000 deaths in 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora)

9. Avalanche (100,000 deaths in 1970 Huascarán avalanche)

8. Heat wave (70,000 deaths in 2003 European heat wave)

7. Tsunami (227,898 deaths in 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami)

6. Tropical cyclone/Hurricanes (500,000 deaths in 1970 Bhola cyclone)

5. Flood (4,000,000 deaths in 1931 China floods)

4. Earthquake (830,000 deaths in 1556 Shaanxi earthquake)

3. Famine (15,000,000-plus deaths during Great Chinese Faminefrom 1958-61)

2. Pandemic (1,000,000,000 deaths from Tuberculosis)

1. Meteor (hasn't happened yet -- or in 15 million years or so -- but it will wipe all of us out soon enough)

Apologies to tornado and wildfire. You get honorable mentions.

5. White Zombie's Thunder Kiss '65 (edges Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt, which is one of my least favorite Pearl Jam songs)

4. Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road (I'm not a Springsteen guy, but this is a good song)

3. Howlin' Wolf's Smokestack Lightning (high-level blues music right here)

2. Live's Lightning Crashes (Live is one of the 1990's most underrated bands)

1. AC/DC's Thunderstruck (They played this before every WAC Tournament back game in the late 2000s; it got annoying)

Honorable mention to Thunder Clatter's Wild Cub, which does not qualify because "Thunder" is in the band name and not the song title.

We were pretty good with the tent. It took about 15 minutes. It's a huge tent but relatively easy to put together. It's just two long connectors that criss-cross and then two smaller connectors on both sides. As for top-five camping meals, I'm not going too crazy making food while camping, although we did see somebody with a Traeger. My top five are:

5. Scrambled eggs

4. Dutch oven pizza

3. Tacos/nachos

2. Hot dog and baked beans

1. S'Mores

Basically the only reason we went camping was to have S'Mores.

If you're a national park fan, I'd recommend checking out this story that hit our site today on NSN's seven-day trip to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

But I'd rank my top five: 1. Yellowstone, 2. Yosemite, 3. Arches, 4. Glacier and 5. Grand Canyon. I've been to Haleakala National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, and both are cool. We're lucky to be within driving distance of so many great national parks.

The ship has sailed on that one as MLB, the NFL, the NBA and MLS all support kneeling (no idea on NHL). And if you want to have real dialogue on a topic, feel free to create a Twitter account with your real name and face. Put your name on it, and we can have honest and open dialogue on important topics.

Distance from downtown Reno to Montreux? 18.3 miles (22 minutes)

Distance from downtown Reno to Old Greenwood? 30 miles (33 minutes)

Yes, it is in a different state, but it's not that much further away from Reno's central landing point. Given the field at this year's tournament, I imagine most will fly into Reno's airport rather than taking private planes into Truckee. I figure most players will stay closer to the course and not in Reno. The move, in a normal situation, could actually draw better as it's closer to Sacramento, so some from the city could make a weekend trip to Truckee and catch the event. The tournament certainly loses some connection to Reno given it crossed the state border, but the people running the event are still from Northern Nevada.

I'm going to assume my goal is to get off the island, so I'll take the inflatable raft, water purifier, knife and matches. I recently read Hatchet as part of our family book club, so I'm pretty sure I could get back to civilization with those four items.

Both schools are named after wolves, and wolves run in a pack.

I'd give him a C+ as a singer. He's not horrible. But I would not listen to his singing for pleasure.

Is it sad I don't know who any of those people are? I'll go with the guy in the bottom right considering he has a very serious face, and I'm pretty that guy is from Bloodsport.

Maybe he could finally race me in the 400-meter individual medley, which he was supposed to do in January 2019 during Nevada swim and dive's final home meet before bailing. Maybe we can do a virtual race.

My new prediction is the Marlins ruin the season for everybody. But my original prediction was here with my MLB season preview.

Considering I'm the worst youth soccer coach in Northern Nevada history (two wins in two seasons), I will take the title of best baseball coach in Washoe Little League history, which means extra because it is the self-proclaimed "League of Champions." Additionally, I still have five extra T-ball-sized Aces hats, jerseys and Washoe Little League sweatshirts if anybody wants them since we didn't play a 2020 season and not all of the kids picked up their gear. Just email me. See y'all next week!

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. He writes a weekly Monday Mailbag despite it giving him a headache and it taking several hours to finish. But people seem to like it, so he does it anyway. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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