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Bishop Gorman’s athletic dominance relatively recent thing

Updated August 16, 2021 - 9:07 am

When it comes to high school sports, the assumption in Southern Nevada and beyond is Bishop Gorman has always had the best of everything.

Let Frank Nails, coach of the school’s first championship football team in 1970, offer evidence to the contrary.

“We would practice at night because it was so hot, and we had to get parents to pull their cars up to our little field behind the school and turn their lights on so we could practice,” said the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer.

His star player was quarterback David Humm, although Gorman didn’t win its first state football title until the left-handed passer had moved on to Nebraska.

Gorman, which opened in 1954, was Nails’ first head coaching stop. There were times he thought he should have kept on going.

“It was just a small school, period. We had three teams on a little football field at the back of the school that was just 90 yards long. On a good day we had maybe 500 kids in the building and that included the ninth grade,” Nails said about less than modest facilities that ultimately figured in his decision to leave Gorman for Western and then Las Vegas High, where the football field is named for him.

“I went in to the see the principal, Father George Harris, after I had spent four years coaching at Gorman,” Nails recalled. “I said, ‘You know Father Harris, we’re going to have to expand or we’re going to get plowed under.’ He said ‘Coach, we don’t have anything on the drawing board.’

“So I told him I was leaving the next year because I didn’t want to lose.”

But Dave and Chuck Gerber were able to build on Nails’ initital success at Gorman. The brothers took turns coaching the Gaels and led them to five state titles during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Gorman was slightly more successful in basketball during its fledgling days, winning small-school state championships in 1962 and ‘63 before winning the first two of its 20 big-school Nevada titles in 1978 and ‘79. The basketball facilities were only slightly better than those for football at the old school on Maryland Parkway.

“Their gym had a stage at the east end of the court. That’s all you need to know,” said Al La Rocque, the former dean of Southern Nevada basketball coaches whose Durango teams often engaged Gorman in classic encounters in the old bandbox that had only a few rows of bleachers.

“Seven on each side,” said Mike Adras, who played on two state title teams at Gorman and coached the Gaels to two more during the late 1980s. But the cramped confines made the tiny gym a tough place to play.

“When I was coaching there (local broadcaster) Seat Williams would come in and do broadcasts. He dubbed it ‘The House of Glory,’” Adras said with fondness.

The way he remembers it, Gorman “was never really all that good in sports besides the big ones, football and basketball.”

The record book pretty much supports him. Boys basketball (22 state titles), football (17) and girls tennis (19) are the only sports in which Bishop Gorman has collected double-digit state championships.

Adras, who after leaving Gorman would become an assistant under Ben Howland at Northern Arizona and then lead the Lumberjacks to the NCAA Tournament as head coach, said he drove past the site of the old Gorman High School building during the pandemic when the streets were eerily quiet.

“I cried because there’s nothing there. It’s just an old vacant lot now,” he said.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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