Get ready for a weird football season.
It's only July but a nagging feeling is permeating. Not because of who's returning, who's going to win, players to watch or who's going to be this year's Mesa or Mountain Pointe. All of that will play itself out this fall, as it always does.
The whistle-passing into a new generation of East Valley coaches isn't yet complete, not as long as guys such as Mike Reardon, Dan Dunn and Max Ragsdale are still on high school fields in some capacity.
It is, however, a full-blown fade.
Jesse Parker isn't coaching anywhere this fall. Gary Venturo retired from Corona del Sol. Tim McBurney was fired at Basha and is now an assistant at Coolidge. Jim Jones wasn't fired at Red Mountain, but the writing was on the wall, and now he's helping another mainstay in Rodger Schenks try to build San Tan Foothills. Curt LeBlanc was ousted at Queen Creek and is an assistant at Combs.
Jim Ewan will leave Chandler after this season. Mike Reardon nearly lost his teaching position at Mesquite during the spring's economic turmoil. He and Gilbert's Dan Dunn aren't far away from retirement, if they so choose. Same with Jim Beall at Higley.
All are in different situations now for various reasons. Some are happy with the changes. Some might forever wait on answers to their questions. Some are happy to be moving on (or out). Some are holding on to their coaching convictions and waiting for another shot.
But it's a different game at the high school level, and a far different world from what this group has been through around these parts for the past 20-40 years.
Venturo hadn't taught at Corona del Sol in a couple years and the combination of no daily in-school interaction with kids with the coaching grind took its toll.
McBurney was also retired from teaching. Neither he nor Jones were interested in all the extracurriculars coaches deal with these days. They weren’t interested in the seedy underbelly of high school football. Or putting on happy faces for administration. Or going to Pop Waner and youth football games to appease parents and make sure their kids didn't open enroll or transfer somewhere else.
Ewan spent two weeks in Italy last summer visiting his daughter, his longest vacation in 40 years of coaching.
Second-longest? Six days in 2008.
He already admitted to doing too much this summer between passing leagues, camps, two-a-day summer weightlifting sessions and fundraising — all the mandatory things today that were unheard of yesterday.
"We're our own worst enemies who made it a year-round business," Ewan said.
"I think I've adapted and changed, but I've reached the point where I don't want to keep trying to keep up. I want to coach, not be 'the guy' anymore. More things are on the to-do list and I've tried to do that and keep up, and in the process, I'm one more layer removed from what I got into coaching to do."
Who knows how much longer Dunn, Reardon, Ragsdale or Beall will want to waltz, but they’re pretty much the end of this East Valley’s long-standing era, alone in 2010 to represent what's left of their coaching generation's successes and longevity which won’t be duplicated.
"If you’re going to go out by yourself it's a little ripple, but it's not a landslide in the lake," McBurney said. "This group is different. It’ll have some lasting effects for a while."