Coached Prospectors to 30-53 Record in Three Seasons at Helm
By Daniel Dullum
Scott Stansberry discovered recently that on the coaching carousel, not only can one door open after one closes, a preferred opportunity can be found at that same door.
Stansberry had unsuccessfully applied for the head boys basketball position at Mesa High School, where he previously served as an assistant to Shane Burcar. Next thing he knew, he was the next man up.
Stansberry served for four seasons as an assistant to Burcar, who left 6A Mesa High to become an assistant coach at Northern Arizona. Initially, Mark Schumaker was hired to fill Burcar’s vacancy at Mesa High. But when Schumaker decided to stay at Desert Mountain, Stansberry was offered the position.
“This was something I wanted to do for my career,” Stansberry said. “I got the call back, and it worked itself out.”
Stansberry, who has coached boys basketball at Apache Junction High the last three seasons, has resigned to accept the opportunity to coach the Jackrabbits.
Stansberry’s resignation from his coaching position, submitted on May 4, leaves AJHS with vacancies for both the head boys and girls basketball programs. Victor Rodriguez stepped down as the girls coach at the end of the 2017-18 season.
No replacement for Stansberry, who has also coached the Cactus Canyon Jr. High program, has been announced. Prior to coming to AJHS in the fall of 2015, Stansberry served for four seasons as an assistant to Jackrabbits Coach Shane Burcar, who left 6A Mesa High to become an assistant coach at Northern Arizona.
“This is a dream job for me,” Stansberry said. “Shane mentored me, taught me a lot… It’s nothing against AJ at all; to get an opportunity like this at this early stage of my career, I couldn’t be more grateful for this.”
“I liked what was going on here (AJHS) with (former AD Chad Cantrell), and I’d been in the district for eight years. I was tired of seeing the kids I’d been coaching get beat up on at the high school level, so I put in for the high school job.
“Coach Burcar wasn’t going anywhere, so I made a move that made sense to me.”
In three seasons with the Prospectors, Stansberry compiled an overall record of 30-53 – 23-31 in power point games. Stansberry took AJHS to the Division IV state tournament in his first season, where the Prospectors’ opening round victory over Florence was the program’s first postseason win since 2006.
“I remember our first home game after I took over. I counted the crowd, and there were six people in the stands,” Stansberry said. “From that, to go to the region game against (Phoenix) Washington, it was packed on that side. Other coaches told me we’d turned this thing around and they didn’t want to play us.”
After the AIA moved Apache Junction up to 4A, the Prospectors had back-to-back 9-18 seasons under Stansberry.
“I definitely feel I left the program better than I found it,” Stansberry said. “The AJ program won 24 games in the eight previous seasons before I took over, and I won 30 in three years here.
“When we were bumped up into 4A, we could have easily scheduled down, and I would have had 40 to 45 wins. But we played in tournaments like Fear the Hop, those non-power point games that really challenge the boys and myself to play up, so when we get to region games, we’ll be ready.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the district right now. But I’d like to say (AJUSD) has a vision, and I think everything is going to be OK. I’ve been teaching and coaching here eight years, got the opportunity to be a varsity coach and it can be a really great situation. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t believe in it. In the end, you have to look out for yourself and your family. That’s what it comes down to.”
With recent changes at AJUSD, including Tina Harshman’s resignation as athletic director, Stansberry tells district residents “to be patient and trust the process. It’ll work out in the end.”
“I wouldn’t have gotten the Mesa job without this place growing me and giving me the opportunity,” Stansberry said. “I’m excited for the next chapter in my coaching career. I wish AJ nothing but the best.”
Photo above: Scott Stansberry (second from left) is leaving AJHS after three seasons as boys varsity basketball coach.