There are almost 250 high schools in Arizona that are members of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which governs prep sports in the state. Each year, there are hundreds of new head coaches hired in the off-season to direct the many sports programs involved.
But there are always a handful of hires that are significant enough to warrant attention.
We’re still a month away from the end of the school year and already there has been movement in the coaching ranks that will have a noticeable effect on the sports landscape.
The hire that has made the most recent headlines was at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe where Paul Moro was tapped in mid-April to take over that school’s football program, replacing Sean Morin who held the reins for the last 13 years.
Moro is a legend of sorts in the state after winning 13 small-school state championships in 30 years at the helm of the Blue Ridge High School program and was featured in a recent Phxfan post. He will likely become the winningest coach in Arizona prep football while at Marcos; he needs just seven wins to reach that goal.
But it was Jim Clark that made the first big splash, as 2015 was closing out. Clark is somewhat of a legend in his own sport after leading the Chino Valley High boys’ soccer program to seven small-school state titles in approximately the same three decades that Moro was running up his legacy at Blue Ridge.
Clark, too, was the school’s first coach and has been the only one a couple of generations of players have known.
And it can be definitely said that he went out on top. The 69-year-old coach’s retirement became official on Nov. 30, right after winning the state crown for a third consecutive year. During those three years, his teams won 64 games.
He averaged 14 wins a season since starting the program in 1989, an incredible display of consistency.
Wrestling, too, was in the news when Bob Callison announced he would be leaving the program he had built over 11 years into a state powerhouse. Callison led Mountain View High (Mesa) to back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015 and was named the azcentral sports Wrestling Coach of the Year in 2014.
Callison is leaving Mountain View, where one of his sons will graduate this year, to begin building a wrestling program at Casteel, a new 7th-through-9th-grade school in Chandler where his younger son will begin next year.
Shifting to the cross country landscape, Elmer Yazzie announced earlier this month that he is leaving Pusch Ridge Christian Academy in Tucson where he took that school’s girls’ XC team to back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013, right after leading them to three straight runner-up finishes. His boys’ team was title runner-up in 2012 and 2014.
Yazzie has been at Pusch Ridge for the last 11 years, but was the head cross country coach at Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico for 19 years before coming to Arizona. He is leaving Tucson to head back to New Mexico.
He’s 62 now, but says he’s not retiring. Yazzie plans to return to Rehoboth, where he will become the assistant on the cross country coaching staff there, helping out his daughter – who is the team’s head coach.
One other school making a major change this month is Alhambra High School in Phoenix. Frank Lautt, who has directed the school’s football program for the last 21 years, has decided it was time to let someone else take over.
George Medrano will be that person. Medrano, who has been the offensive line coach at Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, will take over a successful program that finished last season 8-2.