Former Payson High School coach and teacher Mike Loutzenheiser is taking on a new challenge.
He’s agreed to coach the Pinecrest North Carolina High School varsity girls basketball team this season.
“I am a little bit nervous because this is something new for me,” he said. “Coaching girls will, I believe, be different from coaching boys.”
At Pinecrest, Loutzenheiser is also an offensive coach on the Patriot football team.
He moved to Pinecrest at the onset of the 2010-2011 school year after serving four seasons as the head football coach at Southwestern Randolph High School, also in North Carolina.
Loutzenheiser, 41, earned BA and MA degrees in special education from Arizona State University.
He also is a Payson High alumnus, having graduated with the class of 1987.
At Pinecrest, he is a teacher in the Exceptional Children Department.
In 2004, Loutzenheiser — then the head basketball coach and offensive coordinator in football at PHS — was told his coaching contract was not going to be renewed.
He admits that was a blow, but decided to stay on the PHS faculty one more year and be out of coaching. But he missed athletes and made a decision that would define his life.
“I decided I wanted to move on,” he said. “As unfair as I thought it (his firing) was, it was best for me to build a new life and I wanted to get back into coaching.”
In 2006 he was offered a teaching and assistant football coaching position at the 1,600-student Southwestern Randolph High School near Asheboro, N.C. He later became the school’s head football coach and turned around a program that had suffered for decades.
Prior to returning to ASU in the late 1990s, Loutzenheiser worked in Payson as a Gila County probation officer.
During his stint as a P.O., Loutzenheiser helped coach the 1995 Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade football team to an undefeated season and the White Mountain League championship. One year later, he coached the same group during its freshman football season and for two years was the junior varsity boys basketball assistant coach under then-varsity coach Jim Quinlan. He later took over the head boys basketball coach reins from Randy Wilcox and in 2003 he was named the East Region’s “Coach of the Year” after leading the Horns to a 23-8 record.