St. Johns Coaching Legend Dies

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The dean of small-town high school basketball, a role model for all young coaches and one of the state’s most respected sports figures, has died.

Veryl Heap, 84, died Christmas Eve in his hometown of St. Johns.

As head basketball coach at Duncan and St. Johns, Heap compiled a sterling record of 592 wins and 168 losses. His contributions eventually earned him a spot in the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Also, his 536 wins at St. Johns represents a state record for one coach at one school.

Before retiring in 1984, he built St. Johns into a state basketball power, winning more than 20 region championships and eight state titles. Under Heap, the Redskins also took six state runner-up titles and won more than 20 games over the course of 13 seasons. In 1976 and 1977, Heap’s teams won 44 straight games. The Skins made three consecutive state championship appearances in the early 1970s.

During that time, when St. Johns and Payson were both members of the Class B conference, the two schools often met head to head.

Retired PHS teacher and coach Chuck Hardt remembers the battles against Heap’s teams as classic struggles.

In 2002, Heap received the Paving the Way Award at the All American Banquet in Mesa for his contributions to high school sports.

Four years earlier, he was inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame.

Heap played basketball for the Sun Devils during the 1942-43 season but then enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot.

After a two-year stint in the military, he returned to ASU in 1945 to become an All-Border Conference First Team selection, averaging 20-plus points per game in the 1946-47 season.

The following season, he was named the outstanding player in the National Basketball Association tournament.

After graduating from ASU, he went on to play professional basketball in what was then the Basketball Association of America.

He later worked as an assistant coach at ASU before taking the head coaching position in Duncan.

After two years at Duncan High, he returned to St. Johns to teach, coach and raise his family.

A son, Roger, later followed him into coaching as the Redskins’ head coach.

Services for Heap were held Jan. 3 in St. Johns.

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