More than a coach: Liberty's Muraco teaches kids 'the game of football as well as the game of life'

Posted Saturday, 25 January 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Rich Muraco immediately realized something was removed from his key ring. How could he not? The missing key was bigger than the others and was the most significant — the master key for Liberty High. He had entrusted the key set to one of his football players to open the press box before practice, but that player slid the key off the ring. Muraco questioned the player, who initially denied the action. After further questioning, the player’s lie grew deeper as he claimed the key fell off the ring. Muraco told the player the only way to make the situation right was the tell the truth and admit to the wrongdoing. But what about the punishment? “I want kids to learn you can overcome mistakes and improve yourself as a young man if you can make changes and follow the rules,” said Muraco, one of 32 coaches nationally nominated by the NFL team in their city for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award. “I’m an educator first. I am here to make a difference in a kid's life.” There’s no policy on giving a child a second chance, as it’s left exclusively to the discretion of the coach and administration. Other Las Vegas coaches would have kicked the teenager permanently off the team, and rightfully so because that key would have opened many doors on the Liberty campus. But Muraco believes in second chances, knowing the importance of not quitting on a player and showing him a path to rehabilitation. So Muraco, like he had done many times before, allowed the player to stay on the team — of course, with the stipulation of a behavior contract and the understanding that a second chance wouldn’t equal a third. Sometimes, his decision isn’t popular with colleagues. “I have had disagreements with people, even on my own staff, about whether we should cut a kid,” he said. “But I am not willing to give up on a kid that easy. Of course, there are some lines you can’t cross, like respect. If you come in and start swearing at the administration, that’s it. But if a kid comes in and shows remorse, is willing to admit the mistake and follow a behavior plan, I will work with them.” Muraco is in Orlando, Fla., this week for the NFL Pro Bowl, where he’ll gather with the award’s other nominees for activities such as observing Pro Bowl practices and interacting with some of the league’s notables. It’s an all-expenses-paid trip for he and his wife, thanks to the Raiders, who picked Muraco as the first Las Vegas coach for the honor. They could have selected a coach from their former home in Northern California. You’d be hard-pressed to find another coach nationally who led their team to such a noteworthy victory this season. Liberty upset Bishop Gorman in the regional championship game, becoming the first Nevada team since 2008 to beat the nationally ranked Gaels and ending their state-championship run at 10 seasons. Along the way, Gorman had knocked Liberty out of the playoffs most seasons, including in the 2016 state title game in a crushing 84-8 defeat. Yet, on this cold Las Vegas Friday night, Liberty did what every other Las Vegas team so desperately wanted: The Patriots delivered the knockout blow to Gorman’s dynasty. “I really wanted to be the team that beat Gorman,” Muraco said. “I am a believer that if you work hard and put the time and effort in, that good things will happen.” Lost in the wild celebration was the significance of the victory for former players, many of whom connected via FaceTime with people at the game to be witness the madness. When Liberty won the state championship a few weeks later, more than 40 former players attended the game, and posed afterward with Muraco and the trophy. It, after all, was the first title in school history, something Muraco stressed those players from past seasons had a hand in winning. To a player, their loyalty to Muraco is unmatched. Many have a story of a second chance, whether that’s when they were late for practice or weren’t performing up to standards in the classroom, and Muraco’s methods taught them the importance of making the most of another opportunity. For one player, the next chance came after fighting with a teammate following a loss in a dispute that became so heated multiple coaches were needed to break it up. It was an embarrassing moment for school officials as the fight happened in front of fans, and involved one player already on a second chance. So, Muraco kicked him off the team. Two weeks later, the player showed up in Muraco's office asking for another chance. Muraco knew the player was contrite and gave him a path to re-enter the program, which included apologizing to teammates and missing four games. The player wound up returning by the end of the year. He’s now playing at a junior college. “His style works here,” said Preston Goroff, the Liberty athletic administrator. “His job is to teach the kids the game of football as well as the game of life.” Muraco has been at the school since it opened in 2004. He was elevated to head coach in 2009. The Patriots went from being one of the worst teams in Las Vegas to ranked in the national top 20. His personality is a big reason why. He empowers those around him to be themselves, whether that’s an assistant coach being criticized for how they manage a game, or players unsure of themselves in a pressure situation. He’s also massively competitive — something his players can’t help but to pick up on. One of the nominated coaches will be the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year. Two finalists will be picked Sunday for a $15,000 stipend for their program and a trip to next week’s Super Bowl in Miami. Simply being identified by the Raiders has been more than Muraco had expected. It’s a fitting ending to the best season in school history and an honor for an educator long deserving of recognition for his forward-thinking methods. Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

Other articles published by Las Vegas Sun

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Since the first person tested positive for the coronavirus in Nevada, the pathogen has swept Southern Nevada with alarming speed — from one to two cases, then a few dozen and then a couple hundred. By the time you read this, the number will certainly...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Awaiting a COVID-19 test result, Shira has been isolated in her Henderson home since Sunday. Unable to spend time with her family until she receives the results of her test in a few days, she did her best to celebrate her daughter’s birthday on Monday, ...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

It was a simple, yet powerful message from a high school student-athlete: “You can’t win a game by yourself,” the Spring Valley High flag football player said. One by one, students in Billy Hemberger’s sports leadership course at Spring Valley...

There’s no time to waste Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

We have heard over and over again that the stock market hates uncertainty. Humans likewise hate uncertainty. However, today, both our lives and our economy are more uncertain than ever. If this is “war,” then let’s spend as if it were. This is no...

President just passes the buck Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

I am amazed at how often President Donald Trump, in the public arena, blames others as part of his explanation of whatever topic he has on his mind. Recently, the topic has been mostly the coronavirus pandemic. If Trump gets any pushback from reporters,...

Utility workers being responsible Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

I’m a lineman for NV Energy. I’m not a spokesperson, just an average guy, just doing my part to keep the power on. I want to let the public know that NVEnergy has taken a proactive approach to provide reliable of service during the pandemic. My union ...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Zach Whitecloud signed a two-year extension with the Golden Knights on Sunday, securing the 23-year-old defenseman’s future with the team through the summer of 2022. Even when his contract expires, however, Whitecloud likely isn’t going anywhere....

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County health officials backtracked Tuesday on their announcement that a child died from coronavirus, saying it’s possible the death was caused by something else. During their daily briefing, the county health department...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Washtenaw Golf Club, one of the oldest courses in Michigan, typically only has to worry about the weather in March. Now there is a far more serious issue to contemplate: the new coronavirus. "This is the one thing we didn't think...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Trevor May has been preparing for this. Not precisely for a global pandemic that would bring sports — and so much else — to an unprecedented standstill. Even hours and hours of dystopian video games couldn't help foresee that. But a break in the...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

WASHINGTON — The State Department has advised against all international travel because of the coronavirus, but that didn't stop Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from flying to Afghanistan this week. Gyms across the nation's capital are shuttered, but...

South Korea investigates chatroom sex abuse allegations Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday began reviewing whether to formally charge a man arrested last week on allegations that he operated secret chatrooms where he posted sexually abusive videos of blackmailed women in return for...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

NEW DELHI — The world's largest democracy went under the world's biggest lockdown Wednesday, with India's 1.3 billion people ordered to stay home in a bid to stop the coronavirus pandemic from spreading and overwhelming its fragile health care system...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

For Anna, a 33-year-old American woman stranded in a Peruvian hotel room and out of life-saving medication to treat her auto-immune disease, the clock is ticking. After Peru ordered its borders closed March 15 in an effort to hinder the spread of the new ...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

STORRS, Conn. — All but one of Anna Makurat's teammates headed home after the NCAA canceled this year's postseason basketball tournament and the school suspended classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 19-year-old UConn freshman from Poland, the...