Prep hoops coaches leaving while at top of their game

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                </div>  A coaching change is most often initiated by a school that isn’t satisfied with the results its getting and decides it wants to “go in a different direction.”  That […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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A coaching change is most often initiated by a school that isn’t satisfied with the results its getting and decides it wants to “go in a different direction.”  That holds true whether it’s college or high school.

But the announcement earlier this week by Matt Ruiz that he is leaving his position as head  girls basketball coach at Cienega High School in Vail flies in the face of that since Ruiz went 30-1 with the Bobcats last season.  That also calls to mind that he’s not the only one leaving on his own terms lately – while still on top.  Tyler Dumas at Dobson High School in Mesa also decided it was time to hang up the coaching whistle, at least for now.

Both of these moves stand out since these coaches are walking away from high-profile programs that have been winning big in recent years.

Tucson sports writer Andy Morales says he was contacted a few days ago by Ruiz, who told him he had decided to leave the Cienega program to be able to devote more time to focusing on his college studies.

Granted, Ruiz didn’t have a rebuilding job on his hands.  He took the wheel of a title contender.

Cienega has been a winning program for years.  Rob Harrison posted three 20-win seasons during his four years in charge of the program, and was just one win away from making it four-out-of-four.  But his best year was 23 wins.  And Paul Reed, who directed the program for two more years after that, went 26-2 during the 2013-14 season and then turned the reins over to his assistant, Ruiz.

Despite being upset by Ironwood Ridge in the quarterfinals of the Division II state tournament, Ruiz hit a new plateau with 30 wins, a mark that may stand for some time to come.

But perhaps the biggest surprise about Ruiz’s decision to leave now is that he spent just this one season as head coach.  And that’s where the similarities between he and Dumas end.

Dumas has been in charge of the Dobson program for the last 10 years and he was able to successfully complete his run to the Division I state championship, so he really went out on top.  His players had some extra motivation for winning this year’s title since Dumas let them know before the season wrapped about his plans to step away after this season, and then made it official just last week.

The record Dumas posted in his last season almost perfectly mirrors that of Ruiz, finishing 30-2.  But for Dumas, it was back-to-back 30-win seasons.  And, while those marks are very impressive, they’ve become almost expected; the Mustangs have been winning big for years.  Since the 2008-09 season, Dumas has missed notching 20 wins or more just once – and that season he won 19 games.  And he had 29 wins in 2007-08.

He also won two state titles, the other coming in 2010.

And like Ruiz, the decision to leave the game was his alone.  The 46-year-old coach who has spent 22 years in the classroom wants to move upstairs.  He just completed the certification he needs to become a principal and has begun a search for a job at a school in the Valley.

So there are a couple of new high-profile coaching vacancies in Arizona.  But Dumas and Ruiz have set the bar high for those who follow.