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Coaching rivals have old-time ties

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Coaching rivals have old-time ties

Dave Price

Some old and fond memories were rekindled as Bruce Barnes and Eric Swain sat together during the second half of the Carson and Reno high school girls basketball game last Friday night in Reno.

They talked and even shared some laughs before their own boys teams – Barnes is head coach the Carson Senators, Swain is head coach of the Reno Huskies – took the floor to play an important Sierra League game. Reno emerged as a 49-40 victor that night in a game that went down to the wire, which was only fitting in what became one more chapter in a friendship that dates back to the 1970s, when Barnes and Swain were classmates together at Bordewich Elementary School in Carson City.

“We probably go back as far as any of the other coaches in Northern Nevada,” Swain said. “We’ve known each other since we were in fifth grade at Bordewich; we played middle school and high school together; we both played and were roommates at Menlo (College), so we do know each other pretty well.”

It’s a friendship that is strong off and on any basketball court.

“We’re best of friends,” Barnes said. “We probably talk on the phone three times a week and see each other on the weekends. My wife and his wife have been best friends since they were in kindergarten here in Carson, and our kids hang out together, so there’s a lot of ties between the two of us. We get together and everybody knows everybody, almost like brothers and sisters.”

The ties go even deeper than that. When Barnes and Swain got together to talk before Friday’s game, they were joined by their assistant coaches Carlos Mendeguia and Kyle Schellin – two more Carson High graduates.

“We were laughing before the game up there at Reno because there were a lot of Carson connections,” Barnes said, flashing a smile. “We were kind of raised not to like Reno and here we were, half of us had gone over there to coach.”

Swain and Barnes were assistants together in 1988 when Pete Padgett was Carson’s head coach, and later, Barnes spent one season as an assistant under Swain at McQueen during a 1999-2000 season in which the Lancers won a division championship and advanced to the 4A state tournament semifinals.

“That was a situation where one of his assistants left after the season started,” Barnes said. “It was kind of a hardship on me because I was living here in Carson and had to drive up there, but he was in need and would do the same for me.”

Swain took over the post at Reno after Padgett stepped down at the end of last year. Barnes is in his fourth season as head coach at Carson and now the two longtime friends are competing as part of a playoff race against each other. While basketball and playoffs are important, there are other things in life, too.

“It’s a good friendship and basketball is just part of it,” Barnes said. “We compete for those 32 minutes, I try to beat him and he tries to beat me and when the horn goes off, we just go hang out together.”

Swain echoed that.

“It’s challenging. We’re competitive and we try real hard to beat each other, but at the same time, I think we do a good job of keeping it in perspective because we realize it’s still high school basketball.”

As he watched at least two of Carson’s players last Friday there were some unique flashbacks for Swain, whose father, Carl, was a longtime teacher and coach at Carson High and served as a school board member in Carson City.

“My first teaching job was at Bordewich and I had both Adam (Houghton) and Brian (Welch) in my first grade computer class, so it’s kind of special for me to look out and see how they’ve grown into young men,” he said.

The two rivals will get together for a rematch in Carson City on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

“Unfortunately, we have to play each other two times a year,” Barnes said. “He’s gotten the better of me the last couple of times, so I’m going to try and even the score somewhere down the line.”

Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1220.