Football: Monfiletto set for next chapter in coaching career
Three names come to Ernie Monfiletto’s mind when he considers the influences employed in his everyday life.
His father, first.
Then comes his coach at Menlo College, Ray Solari — who played for Cal and later with the San Francisco 49ers.
Finally, longtime Douglas High coach Mike Rippee.
He said he plans to carry the legacy of all three men into the next chapter of his life.
Monfiletto, a 16-year assistant in the Douglas football program, was hired as the Tigers’ new head coach Friday.
“My father, just as a coach I have a responsibility to some of these kids without a male figure in their lives to help them in modeling behavior,” Monfiletto said. “I look back to my father for that. Coach Solari taught me that when you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. He was a guy who balanced football with academics and intellect. He stressed the student in student-athlete.
“And Mike … He’s had a great impact on my life and on my philosophy of coaching. He leaves a legacy of doing things the right way, having integrity and treating kids with dignity. All three of those guys have had the most positive impact on what kind of person I am and in my efforts going forward.”
Monfiletto, also the department chair of social studies at Douglas High and one-time Teacher of the Year, said his highest priority will be in academics.
“It’s really about getting kids to graduate and be successful in school,” Monfiletto said. “That’s the most important thing. Wins will come after that. Drawing on people like Coach Solari and Coach Rippee, I want to provide the kids with those same influences. Academics are critical. My desire is to continue to produce well-rounded student-athletes.”
As such, Monfiletto said he plans to continue to be the advisor of the school’s Block D Letterman’s Club, which he re-established in 1999. His intent with the club was to involve student-athletes more with the community and the school. With the club, he has stressed leadership, community service, sportsmanship and school pride.
“We are pleased that we have a staff member who knows our football program well, so that we will be able to provide continuity for the players and coaches and continue to strive for the qualities and goals that Coach Rippee has established,” Douglas High principal Marty Swisher said.
“I am excited for Coach Monfiletto. He is a great teacher who values the young people he works with.”
On the field, Monfiletto said not to expect broad sweeping changes for the Tigers.
“I’m lucky enough to not be coming in trying to fix something that is broken,” he said. “Mike has established such a strong foundation with all the hard work he has put in. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him for 16 years. The principles he’s built this program on will continue.
“I’m just honored to have an opportunity to continue to move it forward.”
Monfiletto has been the architect of some of the most potent offenses in school history, with this past season’s group piling up 5,031 yards (an average of 419.3 per game) and 440 points (36.7 per game).
He said not to expect much change in offensive philosophy in the future.
He does plan to shift the defense into a version of the 4-2-5 popularized in recent years by Texas Christian University coach Gary Patterson. The scheme, which replaces a linebacker with a fifth defensive back, has become known for its ability to slow down a variety of offenses, including the increasingly popular spread.
“Because of the multiple sets we will see, we need to be as flexible as possible,” Monfiletto said. “Personnel-wise we have a future with the four-man front. We really believe that offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
“Outside of that, it’ll be about basing the program on discipline, integrity and accountability. We can’t just say those things, we need to walk the walk. That is something Mike was great with.”
Monfiletto started at Douglas in 1996 after coaching for five years at Green Valley High School in Las Vegas. He handled the offensive line for the Gators and also was the head track coach, leading Green Valley boys’ track team to a state title in 1995 and the girls’ team to a state runner-up finish the same year.
He and his wife, Jill, chose to move away from Las Vegas after one of his players was shot and killed in 1995.
“Las Vegas was just too big for us,” Monfiletto said. “We realized we just needed something smaller. A friend of mine, Charlie Walsh, was at Sparks High School at the time and he put me in contact with (longtime Douglas High coach and, at the time, athletic director) Andy Hughes.
“When I came over the hill from Carson City and I saw the mountains to the west, I knew I was home. I was raised in Albuquerque and it was geographically similar to where I grew up. The next year, we moved up here and never looked back.
“I’ve known since Day 1. I’m just grateful for how people treated me and welcomed me, like I belonged. Everyone has always been wonderful to my wife and I. We just live in a great place.”
Prior to Green Valley, Monfiletto had been the offensive line coach for the University of San Diego from 1989-91.
“That was a great experience too,” Monfiletto said. “I was a graduate assistant and offensive line coach. They asked a lot of us and I have a great amount of respect for people who perform the duties of a graduate assistant because they are thankless.
“But, the work ethic you develop at that level is awesome. You learn what it takes to win, and you learn how to work hard.
“My old coach at Menlo always said that there are no miracles, only discipline.”
Monfiletto said he doesn’t expect huge changes to his staff.
Rod Smalley, who played for UCLA and the Jacksonville Jaguars and has been on the Douglas staff for the past several seasons coaching the linebackers, is expected to be the defensive coordinator.
Joe Andrews will be in charge of the offensive line, Luke Rippee (defensive backs/wide receivers) and Mike Blackledge (running backs) are expected back and Monfiletto said he hopes Steve Wilcox (defensive line) will return as well.
J.P. Albert will continue as the head coach at the freshman level while Lance Hartzell resigned from the JV position several weeks ago.
“I’m grateful for everything Lance has done,” Monfiletto said. “He’s done a tremendous job. We’re lucky enough to be getting (former freshman coach) Ollie Herald coming back to fill that position.
“I’m excited about the future of the program and excited to be in this position because I am surrounded by good people. There is a tremendous staff coming back”
Monfiletto met with the team on Friday and the offseason officially starts next week as the current sophomores will transfer into the advanced weight training class.
“That’s when the eye-opener begins,” Monfiletto said. “The spring is when you work hard to instill the Douglas way and hang your hat on it. It’s one thing to talk, it’s another to do it.
“I think we have a great group of kids in this community, surrounded by great people.”
Monfiletto said he’s ready for the new challenge but is also aware he’s heading into uncharted territory.
“It was easy for me as an assistant because coach would ask me about things and whether it turned out good or bad, I wasn’t the one that had to answer for it,” Monfiletto said. “There’s more weight in doing that when you’re in charge. I’m excited about where we are going.
“It won’t be easy. The only thing I can promise these kids is that we’ll work as hard as we can. We’ll do everything we can to support them.”
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.