Former Payson High School football coach Dan Dunn didn't have much time to celebrate his appointment as the new athletic director at Mesa Community College. He spent most of the week after the announcement watching the Willow Fire edge toward his wilderness home southwest of Payson.
"We were up there about a week watching it," he said. "It was within about a mile and a half of the house."
The announcement that Dunn had been selected the new Thunderbird AD was made two weeks ago by MCC President Larry Christensen. Dunn succeeds Allen Benedict who retired.
Although Dunn, also the Thunderbird football coach, says it was never his goal to become an athletic director, he believes "this is a good way to go. This is probably in the best interest of what we are trying to do athletically here at MCC."
Dunn coached at Payson High School from 1992 to 1995. A native of Sharon, Pa., former Arizona State University football coach Frank Kush recruited Dunn after watching him play in the Big 33 All-Star game.
At ASU, he suffered a knee injury early in his career, but lettered for three years while majoring in physical sciences and mathematics.
It was while playing at ASU Dunn first visited the Rim country. He and his Sun Devil teammates spent two weeks each summer in preseason training at Camp Tontozona.
Like all athletes who played for Kush, Dunn will spin some fascinating tales about the rigors of gridiron life at Tontozona.
After graduation from ASU, he coached at Paradise Valley High School as an assistant to Glen Treadway. In 1969, he took over the head coaching reigns at Chinle High School on the Navajo Reservation. He later spent 10 years at Gilbert High School where he won three state championships and 100 games.
In 1981, he assumed a full-time math teaching position at MCC and worked as an assistant coach to Benedict. He also was an assistant to Ken Stites and Jim Ewan. In 1986, he became the Thunderbird head coach.
He later stepped down from that position to move to the Chilson ranch south of Payson. From there, he coached at PHS and commuted to his teaching job in Mesa.
After leaving Payson, he became the offensive coordinator for his good friend, Jim Jones at Mesa Red Mountain. Together, they led the Mountain Lions to two state champions. In 2003, he began his second stint at MCC head football coach.