SAN ANTONIO – Rudy Bernal grew up hearing stories from his father about former Lanier boys basketball coach Nemo Herrera and the Voks' glory days in the 1930s and '40s, when they reached the UIL state tournament six times in 15 seasons.
Herrera led Lanier to state championships in 1943 and 1945, giving its predominantly Hispanic community something to cheer about during the dark days of World War II.
Ramiro Bernal, Rudy's late father, was a senior starter on the 1942-43 team that won the Voks' first state title. Just months later, Bernal was in the Army fighting against Hitler's killing machine in Europe.
Rudy Bernal, who was boys basketball coach at Lanier for 31 seasons and woke up the echoes of the Voks' championship past when his teams made the state tournament in 2000 and 2001, will join Herrera in the San Antonio ISD Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday.
"Very exciting," Bernal said this week. "It's the culmination of a long career in SAISD and at Lanier High School, and I'm really looking forward to it."
Five other people, including former UTSA athletic director Rudy Davalos, a 1956 Edison graduate and basketball standout, will join Bernal at the induction ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Alamo Convocation Center.
The rest of the Hall's Class of 2019 is comprised of Larry Collins, an All-City running back at Edison in the early 1970s; Adriane Lapsley Butler, a 2002 Brackenridge graduate and track standout; former SAISD athletic director Diz Reeves, who was instrumental in getting the SAISD Sports Complex built; and Gilbert Salinas, a 1977 Burbank grad and local basketball legend.
"I really can't fully express what this means to me," said Collins, who graduated from Edison in 1974. "Going into the SAISD Hall of Fame means so much to me because that's home. That's where it all started for me. Man, I'm so excited about this honor."
Collins played three seasons on the Golden Bears' varsity for head coach Morris Stone, now deceased. His position coach was a young Phil Danaher, who has built a state power at Corpus Christi Calallen. Danaher is the all-time leader in career victories among Texas high school football coaches.
"Coach Stone and Coach Danaher were both very strict," Collins recalled. "They taught me that you have to work to get anywhere in life."
Collins went on to star at Texas A&I, where he played a key role on teams that won three consecutive NAIA Division I titles and went undefeated each year. Collins ran for more than 5,000 yards during his four-year career and was the most prolific rusher in Texas history when he completed his college career in 1977.
Collins was also one of the top track sprinters in San Antonio when he was in high school. Former A&I coach Freddy Jonas recalled how that speed set him apart from most other running backs of his day.
"Larry had tremendous speed," Jonas said. "He was tough to catch in space. If he got in the open, he was gone. I remember plays when it looked like defensive backs had him cut off when was making a long run, but then he'd hit another bear.
"He was always smiling and cutting up. That was his way of staying loose and getting ready. But when it came time to play, he was dead serious and was highly competitive. He was just a lot of fun to be around."
Bernal graduated from Lee in 1973, but his heart always will be at Lanier, where Herrera's great teams continue to cast a large shadow over the Voks' athletic program. Large photos of the 1943 and 1945 state champions hang on a wall in the Lanier Alumni Center, the Voks home gym, and
A plaque honoring Herrera, who died in 1984, is mounted on a wall near the entrance of the facility. Bernal, 64, dropped by the Alumni Center this week for a series of media interviews.
"I love coming back here," Bernal said. "I have a lot of great memories. I get to see my dad every time I walk in the door, with his picture up on the wall, so that's a great thing."
Bernal became synonymous with Lanier long before he retired from public education after the 2013-14 season, and his deep ties to the inner-city school made him a uniquely fit for the job.
"He certainly deserves to go in the hall of fame," said current Voks boys basketball coach Joseph Martinez, a 2002 Lanier graduate who played for Bernal and was his assistant for six seasons before succeeding him. "Going in means a lot to him.
"Now, being in his shoes as a head coach, I know firsthand what it takes – all the hours and not just for the practices. Even when I go home, my players are texting me, asking questions. Parents ask questions, too. It's beyond basketball."
Here is a rundown on what each of the six members in the Class of 2019 accomplished as an athlete, coach or administrator in the San Antonio Independent School District. The six are listed alphabetically.
Rudy Bernal, Lanier boys basketball coach, 1983-2014: Bernal headed the boys' basketball program at Lanier for 31 seasons, compiling a 567-442 record and leading the Voks to the state tournament in 2000 and 2001. Lanier made the final in 2001, beating a Dallas Lincoln team that had future NBA star Chris Both at center in the semifinals and falling in the title game to Beaumont Ozen, which was led by center Kendrick Perkins, another future NBA player. His last four Lanier teams went 25-12, 29-7, 29-6 and 24-8 for a combined 107-33 record. Bernal graduated from Lee in 1973, but a big part of his heart always has been at Lanier, where his father Ramiro played on the Voks’ 1943 state championship team before marching off to World War II. Bernal led Antonian to the TAPPS 6A boys basketball state title this year.
Adriane Lapsley Butler, Brackenridge, Class of 2002: Butler competed in volleyball, basketball and track at Brack before she was a three-time All-America track athlete at Georgia Tech. Although overlooked by most college recruiters, Georgia Tech coaches Alan Drosky and Nat Page saw her as a young athlete with a strong upside. They were right. Butler flourished at Georgia Tech, earning All-America honors in the indoor 60-meter dash once and twice in the 4x100-meter relay. Butler, who completed her college career in 2006, holds the school record in the indoor 55-meter dash and a member of the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. She has been an assistant women’s track and field coach at Georgia Tech since 2007.
Larry Collins, Edison, Class of 1974: Collins was an All-City running back who ripped off 1,000-yard seasons as a junior and senior at Edison. Collins was also a standout sprinter for the Golden Bears’ track team, qualifying for the UIL state meet in the 100 and 220 his senior year. He went on to run track and play football at Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville), where he was a starting running back on four teams that went 46-1-1, won three consecutive NAIA national titles and four Lone Star Conference championships. Collins earned Little All-America and All-LSC honors and ended his career as the most prolific ballcarrier in Texas collegiate history with more than 5,000 yards, including playoffs.
Rudy Davalos, Edison, Class of 1956: A standout basketball high school and college basketball player, Davalos earned All-State honors with the Golden Bears before going on to a stellar career as a point guard at Southwest Texas State. Davis helped lead SWT, now Texas State, to the NAIA national championship in 1960. Davalos was an assistant coach with the Spurs in their first three seasons in San Antonio (1973-76), and was named UTSA’s first athletic director in 1976. He also was the athletic director at Houston and New Mexico before retiring in 2006. Davalos was one of the first Hispanics to serve as an athletic director at a Texas university.
Diz Reeves, SAISD athletic director, 1995-2002: Reeves was the driving force behind the improvements made to the SAISD Sports Complex, located adjacent to Burbank High School. The Sports Complex features baseball, football, softball and soccer fields and one indoor hitting facility. The primary baseball field was renamed the Diz Reeves Diamond in 2018. A West Texas native, Reeves worked in the field of education for 39 years, including 21 as an administrator, teacher and coach in the SAISD. He was a head baseball coach at Highlands and head football coach at Brackenridge before becoming the district’s athletic director.
Gilbert Salinas, Burbank, Class of 1977: A San Antonio legend, Salinas was famously called “the world’s tallest Mexican” by former coach and college basketball TV analyst Al McGuire when Salinas played at Notre Dame. At 6-foot-11, Salinas towered over other high school players when he played at Burbank. A four-year starter on the varsity, he anchored the 1976-77 Bulldogs team that reached the Class 4A state final. Salinas, who once blocked 18 shots in one game, earned All-America and All-State honors as a senior. Recruited by some 350 schools, Salinas signed with Notre Dame and earned four letters with the Fighting Irish. He was a freshman on the 1977-78 team that earned ND’s only berth in the Final Four. Salinas was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1981.