The East Valley is a hotbed of hiring activity so far this summer. And if your high school has either “Mountain” or “Desert” in its name (and it often seems like that’s the case at half the high schools in Arizona), there’s a good chance it has recently experienced at least one coaching change among the major sports.
The summer started with a bang, with a shake-up in the athletic department at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa. After continued complaints by parents and players, which began back in early spring, the school fired its head baseball coach, Bryan Rice, in early June.
Weeks earlier, the athletic director, Darrel Stangle, submitted his resignation. According to a recent report on KPHO.com, a 30-page letter from a group of parents was submitted to the principal, outlining a list of complaints that included recruiting violations, misuse of booster funds, and frequent use of profanity with the players. Parents reportedly accused Stangle of failing to deal properly with earlier complaints about Rice.
But more positive news came as the Desert Ridge controversy was finally put to bed, with the hiring of new head coaches for a couple of high-profile football programs in Scottsdale.
Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School coaxed Mike Morrissey from his head-coaching position at Prairie High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to breathe new life into a Wolves’ program that finished the 2014 campaign with just one win. Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, whose son Kade plays at Desert Mountain, has been helping with the coaching and sat on the selection committee. The Iowa native reportedly encouraged the hire of Morrissey.
Morrissey, whose father is an Iowa high school coaching legend, took his last three teams to the state playoffs.
A few miles to the north, Notre Dame Prep found its new football coach in Colorado. Mark Nolan has been coaching at Regis Jesuit in the Denver area the last six years and also picked up some college coaching experience while on staff at University of Colorado. But he also has a familiarity with the game in Arizona, getting his coaching start helping out at programs at Brophy Prep and Gilbert High.
Nolan takes over the program from Gary Gregory, who hasn’t been able in his three years to get the Saints back to the top of their division, where Scott Bemis had taken them before his unexpected death following the 2011 season; Gregory’s best record was 6-4 in 2013 and finished last year 4-6.
The coaching carousel continued to spin through June with the hire of Cheyan Wilson to take over the girls basketball program at Desert Vista High School. It’s a significant move since the Desert Vista program is a top contender in Division I and Wilson has no recent varsity head-coaching experience. The Ohio native was the boys’ JV coach at Desert Vista last season and held a similar position at McClintock High School the year before.
Desert Vista won 30 games and was the Division I state champion in 2014 and last year went 29-4 in advancing to the state semifinals. But continuity in coaching the girls’ program has been an issue; Wilson is the fourth head coach since the 2011-12 season.
And July has begun on a note of optimism for the Mountain View High School boys’ soccer program, which has managed just five wins over the last two seasons.
The Mesa school just hired Mike Tsorn to take over the program, hoping he can bring with him the winning ways he enjoyed a few years back at Scottsdale’s Coronado High. Before leaving Coronado to take a teaching position with the Tempe school district, Tsorn took the Toros to the 2012 and 2013 state finals, racking up a 29-3 record over those two seasons.
And Mountain Pointe High School in east Phoenix has a new athletic director. Mike Griffith has had a month now to settle into his new role as the AD at Mountain Pointe, following the last 10 years in a similar position at Marcos de Niza High in Tempe.
Griffith returns to the school where he worked as the softball coach and assistant football coach back in the late ’90s.