Former Pack coordinators interested in top job
For the Nevada Appeal
Tom Mason wants to return to the Nevada Wolf Pack.
The former Nevada linebacker and defensive coordinator believes he should be the next head coach of Wolf Pack.
“I really feel that I would be a great fit,” said Mason, who is now the defensive coordinator for the SMU Mustangs under head coach June Jones. “I always loved the Reno area. I loved living there and I love the people who live there. And I really believe that is one of the best jobs in the country.”
The 56-year-old Mason was a member of former Pack coach Chris Ault’s first Nevada teams in 1976 and 1977. He also was the Nevada defensive coordinator under head coach Jeff Tisdel – his former teammate with the Pack – in 1999.
“I would have loved to stay at Nevada but when Chris Tormey came on (in 2000) he wanted his own guys in there,” Mason said. “But I didn’t want to leave.”
Since leaving the Pack after the 1999 season, Mason coached for a year with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe and the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL. He then spent seven very productive years as Fresno State’s linebackers coach (2001-07) and the past five years he has been at SMU as defensive coordinator and associate head coach.
A year ago he was among the finalists for the Fresno State head coaching position that eventually went to former Wolf Pack defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter.
“I just love cities like Reno and Fresno,” Mason said. “I’m in Dallas now and Dallas is kind of overwhelming. Reno is my kind of city.”
Mason was the SMU defensive coordinator in 2009 when the Mustangs beat the Wolf Pack, 45-10, in the Dec. 24, 2009 Hawaii Bowl. The Mustangs defense held quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Pack offense to just 314 total yards. That Pack team averaged 38 points and 506 total yards a game.
Mason has spent the bulk of his coaching career as a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. His only head coaching experience came under very difficult circumstances at Boise State in 1996. Boise head coach Pokey Allen, who coached with Mason at Portland State from 1986-92, was diagnosed with cancer before the season and Mason was named the interim head coach while Allen was receiving treatment.
“It was a very bad situation for everyone,” Mason said. “Nobody knew what was going on. We had a team that was filled with freshmen and red-shirt freshmen. When we came there (in 1993) we built that thing with junior college kids and we got to the championship game (the I-AA national title game in 1994). But that season (1996) all those players were all gone and we were now in our first season in Division I-A football. We were just trying to keep the program together that year.”
Mason went 1-9 as head coach but four of the losses were by a touchdown or less. Allen returned for the final two games and went 1-1 but he died a month after his final game.
“That year was a tremendous learning experience for me,” Mason said. “That year, going through all of those things, made me a much better coach. It was the hardest four months of my life. We had no stability. Nobody knew what was going to happen to Pokey. It was very difficult.”
Mason said he would definitely retain Ault’s pistol offense if he was to take over the program.
“No question,” He said. “I love that offense. Last year when I was interviewing with Fresno State for that job, I talked to Tim DeRuyter, who is a great friend of mine. He’s a defensive guy, too, and we talked about what offenses we would run. I told him straight out, ‘I’m going with the pistol,’ and he just said, “So am I..’ As defensive coordinators, we study offenses as much as anyone and that offense is the best offense in the nation.”
SMU is famous for it’s run-and-shoot offense under Jones, who learned the wide-open passing attack as a quarterback at Portland state under coach Mouse Davis.
“I much prefer the pistol to the run and shoot,” Mason said. “You have so many more options with the pistol, with the downhill running game. There’s been some talk that when June leaves SMU, I’d be the guy to take over and I’ve told everyone that I would run the pistol.
“The pistol gives you the dive option, the speed option, everything. You can also run some of the same passing concepts in the pistol that you have in the run and shoot. But you have so many more things you can go to in the pistol as compared to the run and shoot.”
A switch to a defensive-minded head coach, Mason said, wouldn’t mean that the Wolf Pack’s offense would suffer.
“I study offenses all the time,” Mason said. “I probably know more about how each of those offenses work than most of the offensive guys. I have to know because I have to stop them all.”
Mason is confident he could build upon the winning tradition at Nevada that Ault built.
“I know the area,” he said. “I know so much about the program, about the budget restraints, how to recruit kids to come to Reno. I did it. I recruited for the Wolf Pack and I used to recruit northern Nevada heavily when I was at Fresno State. I know what it takes to recruit there.
“I really believe I’m a great fit for that job. I love Wolf Pack football. I truly believe you can build something special there.”
Mason said his experience at Boise in the 1990s, before that program emerged as a national power, also serves him well.
“Reno and Boise are similar type cities,” he said. “The key to their success, I believe is due to that community getting behind that football program. Those fans came out to all our games, whether we were winning or losing. They might leave early if we were losing but they’d always show up again the next game. Getting the community behind your football program is a huge key to building a successful program. And I know it can happen in Reno.”
KLENAKIS WANTS PACK JOB
One of the original architects of the pistol offense wants to return to the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Contacted via email on Monday, former Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Chris Klenakis said he “wants the opportunity to be the head coach at Nevada.”
Klenakis, a Wolf Pack assistant from 1990-99 and again from 2004-09, spent the past three seasons as the offensive line coach at Arkansas. The entire staff at Arkansas was replaced after a stemming from the scandal last spring involving former Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino.
The 48-year-old Klenakis, who has also coached at Central Missouri (2003) and Southern Mississippi (2000-02), was one of the masterminds behind the Wolf Pack’s creation of the pistol offense after the 2004 season. In Klenakis’ final season at Nevada in 2009, the Wolf Pack led the nation in rushing (344.9 yards a game) was second in total offense (505.6) and sixth in scoring (38.2).
Klenakis, who also led Fallon High to the Northern Nevada high school playoffs in 1989 as head coach, has been an offensive coordinator, operating mainly out of the pistol, at Central Missouri, Southern Miss and Nevada. He has also coached the offensive line at all of his coaching stops.
The Fallon native has always been known for his tireless enthusiasm and never-ending work ethic. He has sent 15 offensive linemen to professional football, including the Wolf Pack’s Deron Thorp, Mike Rockwood, Shahriar Pourdanesh, Tony Moll and Harvey Dahl.
Klenakis played college football at Carroll College in Helena, Mont., under legendary coach Bob Petrino Sr.