The coaching carousel is ready to turn.
Heaven knows the three East Valley schools looking for a new football father-figure - Mesa Red Mountain, Tempe Corona del Sol and Queen Creek - aren't short on candidates - let alone qualified candidates.
Nearly 120 applicants put their best foot forward for the three openings, and that's full-well knowing this state's economic issues (which trickle down into the school districts' economic issues), erratic pay and uncertainty regarding available teaching positions.
Of course, in this day and age, the longer it takes, the worse things tend to evolve, so it's all going to shake out in the next two weeks. By the end of January, the carousel should be closed.
(Full disclaimer: Nothing you'll read here comes from horses' mouths. All three schools have been extremely tight-lipped on the subject. Not a spoken or written word. Nothing. You'd think they possessed the envelope containing the next "Survivor" or "American Idol" winners. Then again, the schools have zero to gain and much to lose by publicly talking about candidates, real or mythical).
Because of the aforementioned swearing of secrecy, The Insider did its own independent digging, calling, e-mailing and rumor-mongering. No predictions involved, just a glimpse of what we've ascertained.
Red Mountain: A pool of candidates is essentially down to fewer than 10 finalists. Among these two hands' worth of candidates are the team's offensive coordinator, Rodger Schenks, Scottsdale Saguaro offensive coordinator Matt Lewis, Phoenix Brophy defensive coordinator Gary Galante, Shepherd Junior High coach Mike Khalil and a couple out-of-state coaches.
The list will be narrowed to either two or three finalists, and then the school will make a hire.
Corona del Sol: A pool of nearly 80 applicants was dwindled to 30 and is now hovering around 10 finalists for interviews. Those talks will begin next week.
Lewis' name is on Corona del Sol's radar. Same with Aztec assistants Tim Kelly and Ken Olson, Chandler Hamilton defensive coordinator Lane Reynolds (a former Corona del Sol player), Phoenix Desert Vista assistant Leyland Rogers and one or two out-of-state candidates.
Queen Creek: By far the least-known of the three openings in terms of what's going on. A few names have been floated out there but hardly any way to confirm or reject who's in the running and who's not.
I still have no idea why the school opted to part with Curt LeBlanc, who did this job for nearly a decade and through three different class hikes (3A to 4A-II to 4A-I this season). No off-the-field issues, no academic issues, no selfishness among players. Pretty much all the things high school sports are supposed to be about.
Oh, and he went to the playoffs nearly every season.
Makes no sense.
Anyway, former Red Mountain coach Jim Jones' name is mentioned multiple times by multiple people (though he said Monday he hadn't interviewed). Former Mesa Mountain View, Arizona Rattlers and NFL quarterback Joe Germaine also put his name in the ring. Germaine has worked with Tim McBurney at Chandler Basha.
A parting thought on the Queen Creek situation: Whoever the Bulldogs hire better be a big splash, because if you get rid of LeBlanc and hire Johnny B. Coach, what was the point?