As soon as Skyline made a football coaching change, Ron Wisniewski knew what it meant, but it still doesn’t make the thought any less weird.
The Red Mountain coach will begin his third season at the school this fall. That’s second in the “seniority” list in the Mesa Unified School District football coaches ladder.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said this week of his ascension to No. 2. “It’s ridiculous.”
Not that long ago (everything is ancient by today’s standards), the Mesa schools were home to Jerry Loper, Tom Joseph, Jim Jones, Bernie Busken, Jesse Parker, Bill McKane, Tom DeMassa and Mike Clark. Those guys came, and pretty much stayed. If you wanted to be a football coach for a Mesa school, check back in a decade.
This fall will be Mesa coach Kelley Moore’s sixth season at the school, which makes him the veteran statesman of the district.
“If you have people going more than five years at any school in this day and age, it’s a long time,” Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen said.
Skyline is about to hire its new football coach to replace Pete Jonovich, whose 11 seasons at the school led the way after Jones left Red Mountain in 2009. The Coyotes haven’t publicly announced who their new coach will be, but it’s likely to be an assistant from another East Valley program. That should be known by Tuesday when the school board approves the hire during its regular meeting.
That hire will be the third Mesa district school football coaching hire since Desert Vista pounded Hamilton for the Division I state championship over Thanksgiving weekend.
“It is a rarity,” Hogen said. “I think it’s just a unique timing.”
The difficulties in keeping up with Chandler, Scottsdale and (lately) Ahwatukee schools have been well-chronicled and debated endlessly as it relates to Mesa and (to a degree) the Gilbert districts. It’s been about priorities, schools’ funds, and socio-economic status of families.
“We’re fortunate to have a good district with great people, but based on (win-loss) records we can all see it’s changed pretty drastically in spots,” Wisniewski said. “Why? I don’t know,”
Hogen is pretty involved in the hiring of coaches (often moreso than the firing), and said this winter/spring shuffle was each school’s choice and independent of one another.
The competitive issues surrounding several Mesa schools are overblown to him, as he notes only five schools have won big-school state championships since 1999 (Brophy, Desert Vista, Hamilton, Mountain View and Red Mountain). Mesa was in the championship game in 2009. Westwood was in the playoffs two years ago and seven of the past 12. Red Mountain has been a perennial playoff team.
It’s obvious that keeping up with Hamilton or Brophy is impossible on several fronts, but it’s also clear the Mesa schools want more football success.
Getting there, however, will have to be done one school at a time, on its own.
Even so-called “reclamation” projects such as Westwood, Dobson and Skyline went in completely different directions. (You can argue Mountain View could be tossed into this mix, though completely different challenges from the other three schools).
Dobson went with a veteran of Mesa schools loaded with experience (George De La Torre). Westwood went in the complete opposite direction with a young guy with no experience running a varsity-level program, but with some coaching experience (Spencer Stowers). Skyline may ultimately follow a similar thought.
Chad DeGrenier is young but was experienced before coming to Mountain View last year. Wisniewski came from the college ranks.
So there may not be a method to this spring’s Mesa madness, but there’s no doubt the massive changes are a strange sight, even if the district doesn’t feel the sky has fallen the way others do.
“I think we’ve got some really good people coming in, and we had some really good coaches and people who were here before them,” Hogen said. “It’s fresh blood and a chance to look at this and figure out what we all need to do to make that happen. How quickly perception can change is remarkable.”
A look at recent football coaching turnover in the Mesa school district
School Coach Tenure (Fall 2012) Predecessor/tenure
Dobson George de La Torre 1st season Alex Jacobson (3 seasons)
Mesa Kelley Moore 6th season Dennis Parker (3 seasons)
Mountain View Chad DeGrenier 2nd season Tom Joseph (9 seasons)
Red Mountain Ron Wisniewski 3rd season Jim Jones (22 seasons)
Skyline ???? 1st season Pete Jonovich (11 seasons)
Westwood Spencer Stowers 1st season Greg Mendez (4 seasons)
(Desert Ridge is located in Mesa but is part of the Gilbert Public School District)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.