Preston Jones is moving a few miles southwest for his new job; Dennis Parker is heading out of state to take his new gig, leaving the East Valley with two new openings as the offseason football coaching carousel spins round and round.
Jones left his head coaching position at Gilbert Highland to accept the same position at the newest East Valley school, Chandler Perry, on Monday. The same day, Parker, the coach at Mesa, accepted the job at Texas Lutheran University, an NCAA Division III school in Seguin, Texas — a town he made his home several years ago during a high school state title run.
“I hate to leave Highland, but this is the best opportunity for my family in the long run,” Jones said. “Getting to start a program from scratch was something that interested me.”
Jones informed Highland and his players of his decision to leave Monday morning. His hiring should be made official tonight at a Chandler Unified School District governing board meeting.
Jones, 34, has been the varsity coach at Highland since 2002, posting a 27-28 record. In his past three seasons, Highland enjoyed winning records (9-4, 7-4 and 6-5) and qualified for the playoffs each year. The Hawks reached the 5A semifinals in 2004 and are one of just two Fiesta Region schools to defeat Chandler Hamilton this decade in regular season play.
Jones played high school football at Mesa Red Mountain for his father, Jim Jones, from 1988-90, then played in college at Tennessee Martin in Knoxville, Tenn., where he was an all-conference defensive back. He has also coached football at Tempe McClintock and Red Mountain as an assistant.
Parker was reported to be leaving Mesa for Gladys Porter High School in Brownsville, Texas, by the Brownsville Herald last week. But Parker said Thursday he had not accepted Porter’s offer; he was waiting for an interview this past weekend at Texas Lutheran.
Parker, 56, agreed to take the job and was waiting Monday only to receive final terms of his deal with Texas Lutheran. Parker and his wife, Merry, lived in Seguin for three years when Parker coached at Converse Judson, which won a state title.
It’s a loss for the Jackrabbits, who in three seasons under Parker had climbed the ladder to a playoff-caliber team. Mesa was 3-7 in Parker’s first season in 2004, 5-5 in 2005 and 7-4 in 2006. The Jackrabbits earned the school’s first postseason berth since 2000 in 2006, falling in the first round to Tucson Salpointe Catholic.
The chance to return to Texas was too good to turn down for Parker, particularly at the college level. Parker previously coached Texas high school state championship teams at Marshall and Judson. His college stops included the University of North Texas (formerly North Texas State) and Southeast Missouri State University.