Sullivan reflects on 30-plus years of Carson memories
John Sullivan has enough memories about Carson City to last a lifetime. Literally.
He was born and raised here … “Carson Street was paved, King Street was paved, 395 was paved, but that was about it. It’s certainly changed, but it’s been a great place to live and raise kids,” Sullivan said in a 2000 interview.
Now, having taught and coached at Carson High School for more than three decades — the last 10 years as head coach of the softball program — Sullivan is settling back and preparing for retirement. Well, to a point.
“I’m just home alone now,” Sullivan said with a laugh. “I’m keeping busy. I’ve been out doing some yard work and stuff like that. It’s nice to be home on the weekends for the first time in seven or eight years.”
Make no mistake, though, Sullivan has thoroughly enjoyed his coaching experiences. That explains why he coached the high school program during the spring and then spent time in the summer working with players in the Carson Comets softball program.
The rewards have been abundant, highlighted by a state championship in 1994. Better yet have been the rewards of working with such standout players as Lynda Upton, Rosette Rough, Leah Sanchez, Margie Foster, Nicole Karasek, Holly Hawkins, Tonya Root, Stephanie Hicks, Andrea Ricci — just to name a few.
“We’ve had some great athletes and I was fortunate enough to have some great coaches working with me, too,” Sullivan said. “I could go on and on. I’d like to list them all, but there probably wouldn’t be enough space in the newspaper to do that.”
There wouldn’t, considering all the athletes Sullivan coached not only in softball, but the 18 years he spent as an assistant with the Carson football program between 1970 and 1988.
“It’s great keeping in touch with the the kids,” Sullivan said. “I still run into a lot of them every so often and I’m glad to see how successful they’ve become.”
Rough, Foster and Sanchez played for a Long Island University program that advanced to the NCAA regionals this season. Karasek pitched for Kent State. Upton played golf at the University of Nevada and is still trying to take a shot at playing on the LPGA Tour.
“Lynda may have been the best athlete I coached in 10 years,” Sullivan said. “She was such a natural. She could come right off the basketball court and it would look like she’d been playing softball for months.”
Another was Rough, a third-team All-America outfielder for Long Island this season. She was also the leading scorer for the Long Island women’s soccer team last fall, and in 1998, she earned All-American recognition as a rugby player at Oregon State.
“Rosette is one of those athletes, she may not be very big, but she shows it’s not the size of the athlete that’s important, it’s how they perform,” Sullivan said. “She’s done well at anything she’s ever tried.”
It was a group of overachievers in 1994 that provided Sullivan with his best memory as Carson’s softball coach. The Senators finished tied for second in their division with a 14-4 record that season, but battled their way to second-place at the zone tournament in Fallon and came back the next week to win the state tournament in Las Vegas.
“The road to the state championship is what stands out the most to me,” Sullivan said. “We weren’t favored to win. I would say we were lucky to even get into zone. That was quite a run for two weeks.”
Carson — with three freshmen in the lineup, including ace pitcher Karasek — played 40-some innings just to get through the opening day, including a 3-2 win over arch rival Douglas in a game that extended past midnight.
The Senators lost to McQueen in the zone finals, but they came back the next weekend in Las Vegas and won a rematch against the Lancers in the state finals.
“We got to Vegas and won two real close games right off,” Sullivan said. “By the time we played McQueen for the championship, you could see the girls were so confident, there was no way they could lose.”
For Sullivan, it’s been quite a run since the was a student at Carson High and part of a graduating class of 103 students in 1961. He played for league championship football and basketball teams and was inducted into Carson High’s Football Hall of Fame in 2000. His son, John, played for Carson’s 1992 state championship baseball team.
But now, the time has come to enjoy life and maybe take that vacation to Yellowstone.
“After almost 35 years, my accountant said it would be smart for me to retire,” Sullivan said jokingly last month, late in a season in which the Senators compiled a 15-15 record and qualified for the Northern 4A playoffs.
Relax? Now? Don’t count of that, Sullivan hinted.
“I don’t plan to coach anymore, although I wouldn’t rule it out completely,” he said. “I’ll probably start looking for some kind of work at the end of the summer, just so I can stay busy intellectually and socially.
“I’ll certainly miss the coaching, probably more so than teaching. I guess I like the plotting, planning and calculating involved with coaching. I like to see the finished product, and you don’t always get that chance as a teacher. But in coaching, you have all those tests, which are the games, and if you win, then you’re a good coach.”
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal