I called former Snowflake and Round Valley football coach Tot Workman, one of the most recognized and acclaimed coaches in the state, last week to get his take on what was going on in Arizona high school football coaching ranks.
We haven’t always been friends, dating back to the 1980s when we coached against one another, but I have tremendous respect for the man and wanted his opinion.
“If you stay in the business (coaching football) long enough, you’re going to get fired,” said Workman, a former National High School Coach of the Year.
He was responding to the firing of Queen Creek coach Curt LeBlanc, Basha coach Tim McBurney and Jim Jones of Red Mountain.
All three are among the most accomplished and successful coaches in Arizona, but were let go at the conclusion of the past season.
McBurney, a close personal friend, started Chandler Basha’s program eight years ago, and has a long history of success at the school, as well as at Tempe High School, his alma mater, where he led the Buffalos to the 1996 state championship.
He’s no stranger to the Rim Country, having brought his teams to Payson from 1990 to 2002 for weekend-long summer passing league camps.
At Basha, he was 8-4 last season and lost to Phoenix Mountain Pointe 22-21 in overtime in the 5A Division 1 quarterfinals.
He was inducted into the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
McBurney was one of the most dedicated football coaches I have ever known, and had a burning passion for the kids and the game.
When given the opportunity to resign by Basha Principal Ken James, McBurney refused and was later fired.
That’s the McBurney I know.
LeBlanc’s firing was equally astonishing.
The former Payson High School assistant to Dan Dunn and Jim Beall appears to have been scrapped for Queen Creek golden boy Joe Germaine — a former Ohio State, NFL and Arena quarterback.
Like McBurney, he refused to resign, saying his firing was an administrative decision.
I remember LeBlanc at Payson High as an excellent math teacher and a young, up and coming coach with a bright future.
Dunn often praised him for his hard work and eagerness to learn.
After leaving Payson, he took a head coaching position at River Valley where he was quickly recognized as a budding talent. After a few years of success there, he was scooped up by QC administrators.
The Bulldogs made the playoffs seven times in his nine-year tenure, and he had a 65-36 record.
LeBlanc accomplished all that while leading the Bulldogs from the 2A ranks to 3A, then 4A.
In 2003, 2004, 2005, QC posted 9-3 records.
I don’t know Jim Jones well, but we have mutual friends who assure me he was an excellent coach and a fine man on and off the field.
Although he resigned after 22 years at the helm of the RM program, it’s no secret he was receiving pressure from administrators.
During his tenure at the Mesa school, he compiled a 137-99-3 record with two 5A state championships and two semifinal appearances.
Most importantly about all three coaches is they were dedicated to helping build total student athletes with high levels of character.
It’s also obvious McBurney, LeBlanc and Jones were exceptional, seasoned coaching talents probably not yet ready to hang up their whistles.
Most any high school would be fortunate to have them at the helm of their programs.
Their releases are blows to Arizona high school football and the coaching profession.