A debilitating stroke may have removed any thoughts of Arizona’s winningest high school football coach returning to the sidelines.
The stroke, suffered Dec. 23, has left Paul Moro unable to speak or use his right arm, according to an article in The Arizona Republic. He is recovering at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
At age 66, he still had some time to add to his record-setting resume, although he said he was through with being a head coach when he was released from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe following the 2017 season. He said at the time that he might consider consulting for someone else’s program. But now, even that scenario seems improbable at best.
It’s been a tough road since he unexpectedly resigned following the 2013 season from a job that he held at Blue Ridge High School for three decades. Just as he was getting started on his new job as head coach at Poston Butte High School in Florence, his son, Alex, committed suicide. Then, in 2017, Moro was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Moro spent a grinding two years at Poston Butte trying to rebuild that program and then took the head-coaching job at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, where he passed Vern Friedli on the career wins list, notching his 332nd win to move into first place among Arizona coaches. Moro finished his tenure at Marcos with 336 wins.
Early in his second season at Marcos he was diagnosed with the cancer right after the season opener, forcing him to miss a game while in the hospital. He continued to undergo treatment while overseeing practices and games the rest of the way and said his cancer had gone into remission. His strong Christian faith helped carry him through the personal challenges of that season.
But the grueling schedule he was keeping trying to coach and be a full-time teacher at the school was taking a toll and he decided he could no longer do both. The school insisted the head coach had to be on campus, so Moro and the program parted ways.
It was during his 30 years at Blue Ridge that Moro built a reputation as one of the premier coaches in the state. His record at the tiny 3A school of about 800 students in the town of Lakeside in the White Mountains was 319 wins against just 52 losses – the stuff of legend. The Yellow Jackets ruled small-school football during his tenure, making it to 16 championship games and winning 13 of those.
Moro’s inability to return to the sidelines is just the latest major loss to the high school game. Friedli passed away 18 months ago at age 80, and the man who held the previous record for career wins, Jesse Parker, died the same July 21 day at 77. Both were in failing health; Friedli had suffered a series of strokes and Parker was battling cancer and a recent bout of pneumonia.
In a span of 24 hours, the state of Arizona lost a couple of the best coaches the high school sport has ever seen. They walked the sidelines for a combined 75 years and stacked up 640 wins between them.
And now the current career-wins leader has left the game.
Now, the game of life has become an even bigger challenge for Moro.
His son, Adam, told The Republic’s Richard Obert that his father “has a long recovery” ahead of him.