Friday, June 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
It’s an eclectic group, covering the gridiron, pitch, court, ring and course. No matter what sport you’ve followed in Las Vegas over the past 30 years, you’ll likely recognize at least one of the names.
Friday night at the Orleans Arena, the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame welcomes the 2012 inductees with its annual enshrinement ceremony. Highlighted by former Rebel and NBA player Stacey Augmon, the class also includes local retired coach and administrator Frank Nails, former Rebels soccer player Simon Keith, former boxing executive Duke Durden and the Las Vegas Founders Golf Foundation. Durden died in 2000.
Starting in 1997, the hall of fame, which is located at the Galleria at Sunset mall, has inducted a class every year except 2003. Last year’s class included St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson, who played at Eldorado High. Other notable inductees over the years include former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian (class of ’98), the 1989-90 Rebels basketball team (’01) and former major league pitcher Greg Maddux (’02).
Here’s a closer look at each of the honorees:
Nails will always give credit for his success to the thousands of kids he coached and mentored over the years.
“I never had a losing season, but it wasn’t because of me,” Nails said in March at the press conference for the Southern Nevada Hall of Fame 2012 class. “I was blessed with some good athletes and some even better kids.”
It’s talk like that, along with a couple of state titles, that so endeared Nails to the community throughout his 37-year tenure as a high school coach and administrator in the area.
Nails, 73, started his career in 1965 at Rancho High School as the assistant football and baseball coach as well as the head wrestling coach. A year later he moved over to Bishop Gorman, then a small school battling as the underdog, and in 1970 he led the Gaels to their first large-school state championship. His second state title came in 1976 as the offensive coordinator at Western.
The final 20 years of his career were spent as an administrator at Las Vegas High until he retired to Summerlin in 1997. Nails’ legacy lives on at Las Vegas, as his hire at football coach — Kris Cinkovich — led the program to state titles in 2001, ’05 and ’06, and Las Vegas’ home stadium is named Frank Nails Field.
He coached two previous selections to the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame — Gorman’s David Humm (class of ’97) and Western’s Frank Hawkins (’01). This is Nails’ sixth hall of fame membership, including the local football coaches’ association and the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
The odds were stacked against Keith, not only on the soccer field, but that he would still be alive more than 25 years after receiving a heart transplant.
Keith, who was born in England but moved to Canada when he was 2, was attending the University of Victoria when he was diagnosed with myocarditis, a deterioration of the heart muscle. At age 21, he went back to England for the transplant — his donor was a 17-year-old soccer player who died of a brain aneurysm — and then eventually followed his older brother to play soccer at UNLV.
Keith played two years as a Rebel, leading the team to two NCAA tournaments and earning All-Big West first-team honors as a senior. In 1989, he was the first pick in the Major Indoor Soccer League, becoming the first person to ever compete in professional sports after having a heart transplant.
In 2011, he founded the Simon Keith Foundation, which aims to increase organ donation while also providing financial support primarily to young life-saving donor recipients. He also released a book last month about his life, “Heart for the Game.” Keith now lives with his family in the Las Vegas area.
Already in the hall as a member of the 1989-90 national championship team, Augmon will become the fourth individual off that roster to also be inducted. The others include coach Jerry Tarkanian (class of ’98), Greg Anthony (’06) and Larry Johnson (’08), who will present Augmon at the ceremony.
Augmon went on to enjoy a 15-year NBA career before working as an assistant in the Denver Nuggets organization. That’s the position he held until last year, when former teammate Dave Rice offered him a spot on UNLV’s bench.
Now entering his second season as a Rebels assistant, Augmon has one of the nation’s deepest frontcourts at his disposal and the support of the city he’s happy to once again call home.
Breaking through barriers came naturally to Durden.
After a modest start locally as a supervisor at a rec center and an official with the Southern Nevada Officials Association, Durden eventually became the first black official in the Western Athletic Conference. But Durden would leave his biggest mark in the boxing ring.
In 1978, Durden broke the color barrier on the Nevada Athletic Commission. That same year he had a contentious fight with the World Boxing Association over the matter of officials on a boxing card. The battle set the stage for the commission to adopt its current policy of including at least one Nevada ref and one Nevada judge on all NAC-sanctioned cards. Durden would go on to become the commission’s chair before leaving to be a vice president at Don King Productions.
Durden, who was born in New Orleans, died in Las Vegas in 2000 at the age of 62. He was represented at the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame press conference by Tony Burrell, his son-in-law and chief operating officer of Guilty Boxing.
Las Vegas Founders Golf Foundation
The Las Vegas Founders operated the local PGA Tour stop from 1983 to 2006, helping to raise more than $12 million for charity along the way.
The Founders also operated a local junior event and various other tournaments throughout the years.