Football, girls basketball coaches both leaving
SHIPROCK — A big shakeup in Shiprock High School's athletic department has taken place, with two big names not returning to the Chieftains next school year.
Central Consolidated School District media relations spokesperson Renee Lucero said today that the contract of girls basketball coach Larenson Henderson was not extended, while football coach and athletic director Eric Stovall will step down from his duties.
Stovall, who spent the past three years coaching football and this past school year as the A.D., said his resignation will be effective May 31, his last day on contract at Shiprock.
"It's for personal reasons. It's strictly to give me more with my family. We take on a lot of responsibility in a very important role of mentoring students grow. I want to give more time to my family," said Stovall, who went 20-12 with two playoff appearances. "I'm real proud of our football program. We moved it in a real good direction. It's tough (to leave) because I care about my kids. They are the No. 1 priority. It's been a very humbling, positive experience."
Lucero said Henderson's contract wasn't renewed because district policy prefers that coaches also be certified teachers or employees at the school. She characterized Henderson as a "stipend" employee, which means his employment was for the duration of a season.
Lucero said when a coach is not employed by the district as a certified teacher, administrator or counselor, that specific position is posted as open on CCSD's website every year.
Lucero said Henderson applied again for the job, but the interview committee chose to hire former Lady Chieftains basketball player Adriane Goodluck Jopek as the next coach. Jopek is employed as a teacher at the school.
“The paperwork has been processed to make her the new coach next year,” Lucero said.
Lucero was quick to praise Henderson's efforts in guiding the Lady Chieftains to six straight years of reaching the state semifinals or further, including winning a 4A state title in 2017.
“He’s definitely had a tremendous career as head coach for the Lady Chieftains. The district is absolutely appreciative for everything he’s done," Lucero said. "He definitely rose (the program) up to where people expect it to be. We couldn’t be more thankful for that, what he’s done for all the girls he’s coached. This is simply a matter of following procedures. We wish him all the best in the future.”
After spending 25 years as a youth sports coach, Henderson said landing the coveted girls basketball head coach position at Shiprock was "a dream job."
Henderson said when he was told this week that his contract would not be renewed, it was unexpected because it was without warning or discussion about any issues related to his work.
"Out of respect, I think we should have sat down and talked and discussed this," he said, adding he questions the administrative process used to terminate him.
Henderson also expressed concern for the future of the girls basketball program. He cited the achievements made in his six years as the Lady Chieftains' coach, including three final four appearances, two state runner-up finishes, one state championship, several awards and other forms of recognition, and a 154-29 coaching record.
"I've made a lot of positive impact in what I've done here. To say I'm unqualified as a coach here is hard to believe," he said.
With Henderson's successor already determined, Lucero said the district hopes to find Stovall's successor as soon as possible.
“Another person we’re sad to see go. He’s had success at the district level. He’s had success at getting the to the state tournament. I certainly don’t want to see any momentum the (football) team has gained lost,” Lucero said, adding concussions and other injuries to players declined significantly under Stovall.
Meanwhile, Stovall, who also will be leaving his position as Shiprock's academic dean of students, said he plans to stay in the Four Corners region as a coach and educator. Stovall said he is confident his successor will help keep the football program on the right path.
"(The program is) in a good place right now," said Stovall, who thanked the members of his coaching staff over the past three years. "I think we've done some goods things at Shiprock High the last few years. Athletically, I think we've done a good job of helping our student athletes grow. I'm very proud of Shiprock High's teachers, students, staff, the community. I really have a special place in my heart for Shiprock High."
Navajo Nation reporter Noel Lyn Smith contributed to this report.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.