Eduardo “Ed” Nuñez, who was part of Pueblo High School’s first graduating class of 1960, and started a successful coaching career in tennis at his alma mater in 1965, passed away Monday from poor health related to his kidneys at the age of 78.
Nuñez was the boys tennis coach at Pueblo from 1965 to 1979. He produced winning teams that regularly reached the divisional and state tournaments. The tennis courts at Pueblo were named in his honor in 1994.
He was also a Spanish teacher, counselor and assistant principal at the school. He impacted the lives of many students whom he came across.
“I made it through school because of people like my counselor, Ed Nuñez and my coach, Roland LaVetter,” legendary Pueblo, ASU and NBA basketball player Lafayette “Fat” Lever said last week. “I don’t know what would have happened to me if somebody like Mr. Nuñez did not provide the support I needed at that age. I owe a lot to him.”
Nuñez trained the Pueblo students to be successful in tennis although many did not have a background in the sport at the southside school. He was self-taught in the sport.
Pueblo did not have a tennis team his freshman year. He convinced a teacher to start a program at the beginning of his sophomore year in 1957.
He was selected by the Southern Arizona Tennis Association (SATA) to coach the Junior Davis Cup team for Southern Arizona in 1966. From 1966 to 1977, he coordinated SATA-sponsored tournaments such as the Arizona Open throughout Southern Arizona. In 1974, he was elected SATA’s president.
Nuñez also in 1974 became Director of Pima County’s Summer Youth Employment Program, managing a budget of over $1 million. He spent seven years providing summer jobs to disadvantaged youth between 14 to 21 years of age along with providing career counseling and academic classes to over 1,000 participating youth each summer.
“I met Mr. Nuñez in 1977 at the tennis courts of Pueblo High School. My friend Chris Bueno played for Coach Nuñez,” said Desert View wrestling coach Sam Portillo, a Sunnyside graduate who began his wrestling coaching career in 1990 at Pueblo.
“(That is) when I started to coach under Hall of Fame coach John Mulay, who happened to call me this morning and tell me of the passing of Mr. Nuñez. Mr. Nuñez saw me in the wrestling room December of 1990. He became my mentor and made me a campus monitor and made sure I was going to stay at Pueblo High School. Mr. Nuñez always gave me advice. He helped me with personal problems and we remained close friends.”
Nuñez also was instrumental with the Mulcahy Foundation granting scholarship aid to three or four Pueblo graduates yearly who demonstrate university or college potential.
Nuñez retried from his 42-year education career in 2006. In that span, he served in TUSD as a teacher, advisor, coach, dean, and assistant principal for three different high schools. He was the assistant principal of activities at Rincon and Pueblo from 1987-2000, supervising all athletic activities on both campuses.
Pueblo has a scholarship in his honor called the Ed Nuñez Scholarship.
He was inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2015, he became part of the Pueblo Warrior Foundation Hall Of Fame.
“Until the day he passed, he would consistently check on me, call me or text me at all hours … it didn’t matter what time it was and I was always happy to hear from him,” Portillo said. “He would always say, ‘Good morning, mijito.’ … Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Easter, etc. … I took off to Iowa on June 27. He called me before I left and told me to be careful and that he was going to nominate me for the Pima County Hall of Fame, which I think he did.
“It meant a lot to me coming from him as a coach. You don’t coach to be in any Hall of Fame, but it would be an honor. I was always concerned about Mr. Nuñez because he was in poor health especially when he got on dialysis. It broke my heart to hear of his passing this morning. I owe a lot to Mr. Nuñez and Pueblo High School. Mr. Dicky Gastellum (Pueblo’s longtime principal), (football) coach Curly Santa Cruz and John Mulay, they were great leaders, great administrators and that’s what I will never forget about Mr. Nuñez.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.