For new NM Sports Hall of Famers, it's all about relationships - Albuquerque Journal

For new NM Sports Hall of Famers, it’s all about relationships

Bill Gracey, shown in 1996, was a Cibola High baseball coach who went on to officiate high-level college basketball. (Journal file)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Ultimately, coaching is a people business. So, at its core, is officiating.

Bill Gracey and Herb Stinson have professional résumés that made their induction into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame an easy call. Stinson has taken part, as a head coach and an assistant, in 17 state wrestling titles at Aztec High School. Gracey coached Cibola High School to a state baseball title in 1983 and, concurrently with his long coaching career, officiated college basketball games all over the western United States.

But looking back, both men say, it’s the relationships they formed and the young minds they helped to shape that endure.

“The championships, they come and they go. The kids, they come and go,” said Stinson, 70. “But when (his former wrestlers) call me up and they say, ‘Hey, coach, I still use some of the things you taught me in my work ethic,’ that’s what really sinks in. That’s what does it for me.”

Gracey, 69, remarked that the seniors from his 1983 Cibola championship team are just 12 years or so younger than he – well into their own careers and raising or having raised their own families.

“They own their own companies. John Roskos (Cibola Class of ’91), who was a second-round draft pick of the (then Florida) Marlins, he’s one of the top police officers in Rio Rancho. There’s no question that when you see the success stories of the kids you got to coach, and hopefully teach them a few life lessons, is the best part of being an educator.”

Saturday evening at the annual Hall of Fame banquet at the Albuquerque Convention Center, those representing inductees Lou Pierotti, Emanuel “Manny” Smith and Gene Torres Sr., all deceased, are likely to say much the same.

It’s about the people.

Stinson, Japanese on his mother’s side – his parents met in Japan post World War II – said participating in athletics at Aztec provided a feeling of inclusion that he needed in his youth.

But football, not wrestling, was his first love.

“I wouldn’t want to say I was deprived of anything, but football gave me something that I could release my anxieties on, ” he said.

He took up wrestling only because Jerry Parker, a coach Stinson said inspired him to become a coach himself, said it could make him a better football player.

He came to realize, though, that at 145 pounds he was better suited for the mat than for the gridiron. He wrestled collegiately in Utah, then returned to Aztec and began what would become a storied career.

In football, Stinson said, he could miss a block and be bailed out by a powerful and/or elusive running back. In wrestling, he said, “You don’t have a place to hide. You’re on your own … I think for kids, it’s so important that you can stand on your own, and wrestling forces that out of you.”

Gracey, born in Denver, was a West Mesa football and baseball letterman and was voted the Mustangs’ Athlete of the Year in 1971. He began coaching after earning a B.A. in physical education from UNM.

His officiating career began almost by accident, when he was approached after working an intramural game as a class assignment at UNM.

In 1982, out of the blue, he received through the mail a contract sent by Western Athletic Conference head of officials Irv Brown – assigning him to work a game at UTEP.

Over the years, he said in a phone interview, he found what worked for him as an official.

“I got pretty good at those four-to-ten-second conversations (with coaches) on the court,” he said. “… One of the best things that ever happened to me was to say, ‘Coach I missed (a call). When you admit that you missed it, they usually (felt), ‘Well, at least he’s honest’.”

And if he didn’t miss the call, but the coach thought he did?

“Those are the ones that are a little bit more difficult,” he said. “You say things like, ‘Coach, I didn’t see it that way,’ or, ‘I didn’t have the same angle you did.'”

In those conversations with the likes of Rick Majerus, Don Haskins, et al, things did get heated at times. But Gracey said his dealings with umpires as a baseball coach often informed his dealings with basketball coaches as an official.

“Early in my career as a baseball coach, I needed to mature a lot,” he said. “When you go out (to discuss a call) on emotion instead of fact, you’re gonna lose.

“The more I coached baseball, the more I understood what (game officials) go through, because being an official in another sport allowed me to feel their pain.”

2021 Inductees

Bill Gracey

1971 West Mesa graduate; All-District and All-City in baseball and football

Coached high school baseball and college softball in a career that spanned some 40 years

Coached Cibola to a big-school state title in 1983, La Cueva to a district title in 1998. His teams qualified to the state tournament 10 times

Officiated men’s college basketball games from 1982-2014, including the East-West All-Star game the day before the 1983 NCAA Championship game in Albuquerque

Son Scott played eight years of professional baseball, reaching the Class AAA level

Lou Pierotti

Born in Colorado but lived in New Mexico from 1951 until his death in 2015

An all-around athlete, was offered pro baseball contracts post-World War II. Later became an accomplished bowler and golfer

His Pierotti Clowns fast-pich softballl team, formed in 1953, entertained fans throughout the Rocky Mountain-Southwest

The five-member Clowns reportedly went 177-23 against nine-man teams behind the pitching of Bun Ryan

Emanuel “Manny” Smith

Born in New York, was an outstanding basketball player at Stuyvesant High School in Brooklyn

Came to Albuquerque in 1952 after serving as a medic in the U.S. Army. Was named All-Army in basketball

Taught for decades as an APS elementary school teacher while working as a basketball game official.

Won 11 consecutive city handball titles and nine consecutive state titles. His battles with handball rival Cordy Garcia were legendary within the sport

Was an accomplished actor, both in local productions and motion pictures

Died of cancer in 1995 at age 65

Herb Stinson

Born in Farmington, was an outstanding football player and wrestler and track athlete at Aztec High School, earning nine varsity letters

Wrestled collegiately for Dixie State College (St. George, Utah) and Southern Utah

As a head coach, led Aztec to 13 state wrestling titles —- 11 consecutive from 1990-2000. Was a football assistant coach as well

Compiled a 535-95-2 record in dual matches at Aztec and at Bayfield, Colorado

Took high school wrestlers to tournaments in several states as well as Canada

His son Jeremy won three consecutive state wrestlng titles from 1993-95. Son Travis was a state champion as well

Gene Torres Sr.

Born in Trinidad, Colorado

Served in the U.S. Navy from 1957-62

Moved to Las Vegas, New Mexico as a golf pro and coach at New Mexico Highlands in 1962

Won five New Mexico Open tournaments, four consecutively from 1968-71. Lost by one stroke to PGA Tour star Lee Trevino the following year

Won the National Pro-Am Golf Tournament at Pinehurst in North Carolina in 1971, shooting a course-record 61 in the final round

Career victories include the Conrad Hilton Open (four times), The Sun Country Sectional (six) and the San Juan Open (three)

Died in 2005 in Las Vegas at age 67


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