Mesa Mountain View boys basketball coach Gary Ernst is no stranger in the Rim Country, mostly because he maintains a part-time home in Payson, his parents lived here for years and he often entered his Toro teams in the now defunct Payson High Summer Invitational Tournaments.
Also, as director of Arizona Sports Camp in Prescott, Ernst has tutored some of Payson’s finest young players during their summer week-long stays at ASC.
Ernst’s recognition is not limited to the Rim Country — he is also one of the most recognized coaches in prep basketball having in February passed Dick McConnell for coaching wins with 775, the most in state history.
Currently, he has over 800 wins.
Ernst’s most recent acknowledgement came when Arizona Republic sports reporter Richard Obert ranked him No. 1 among the 30 coaches he believes shaped the high school sports state landscape the most.
Ernst played collegiately at Grand Canyon and began his coaching career at Chandler High before moving to Aztec, N.M. for three seasons. The past 28 years he has been head coach at Mountain View, winning eight state championships, four in the last decade.
Ernst has also coached at the Mesa school two players with close Payson ties.
Harper Kamp, who once starred at Shelby School in Tonto Village, shunned PHS to play at Mountain View where he was good enough to earn a scholarship to the University of California.
Dallas Rensch, also a former Shelby School student who left Payson for Mountain View after his freshman year at PHS, also played for Ernst.
Over the years, Ernst — now 64 — has built a reputation as an old school, no-nonsense coach who stresses fundamentals and player accountability.