John Chambers is a true Arizonan.
He grew up in Florence and was in the first graduating class at Apache Junction High School. There were 28 grads out of a student body of about 110. There was a lot of open desert between AJ and other communities in the area, not mile after mile of blacktop and housing developments like there is now.
Not long after graduating with a degree in science education and physical education from Arizona State, he became a teacher and later a coach and administrator at a Jesuit school in north-central Phoenix. Chambers began to bleed red – Brophy Prep red – and has not stopped.
He has seen tall skyscrapers sprout like mushrooms along Central Avenue and the construction of a light-rail system right outside the driveway. Who would have thought?
Now, 45 years later, Chambers is stepping into retirement. He did so recently after 24 years as athletic director at the all-boys school. There were a couple of recent ceremonies – one that put him in the school’s sports Hall of Fame for his role on campus that also included 10 seasons as head basketball coach. He also served many more seasons as an assistant football coach and assistant basketball coach.
Chambers has presided over many state-championship teams and oversaw the start of the construction of the large pool in the center of campus that will be home of the school’s outstanding swimming and diving team, and I surmise the swimmers and divers from next-door female sibling school Xavier Prep. The pool is projected to open in August.
Chambers was an assistant football coach for then-head coach Trevor Stinson and worked with assistant Mickey Ryan, who later became head coach.
“We were quite a trio,’’ Chambers said.
Basketball coach Don Schmidli stepped down in the late 1970s and Chambers said he convinced Chambers to take the post.
Over the next 10 seasons, Brophy had competitive teams and top-notch players such as Greg Taylor, Mark Alarie and Jim Renforth. Alarie went on to play at Duke and in the NBA.
Several of Chambers’ former players were on hand for the retirement ceremony.
Over the years, Chambers made friends with fellow coaches, teachers, athletic directors and yes, even game officials.
Chambers laughed when asked about the referees.
“They have a job to do, too,’’ he said.
Back in the day, Brophy was a part of the Skyline Division, which included mostly Glendale Union High School District schools plus Brophy and fellow Catholic school Phoenix St. Mary’s.
The Skyline was one of the most competitive divisions in just about every sport.
“There were a lot of good coaches there,’’ said Chambers. “Most of us were good friends and we really enjoyed the competition.’’
Chambers has enjoyed his time at Brophy – he currently is teaching a summer-school Biology class – dealing with both students and athletes alike.
“We’re not a really big school, but we are an academic school and some of our students happen to be good athletes,’’ he said. “It is a great school, a great environment to work in. I have been very blessed.’’
He has received a lot of support from his wife, Martha.
She is involved in academics in the Phoenix Union High School District and attends many of Brophy’s sporting events.
“She’s my best fan and one of Brophy’s best fans,’’ Chambers said. “She goes to the games not only because of me, but because she likes to go to the games.’’
Bill Woods, the school’s tennis coach, will take over as the new AD, with assistance from Brad Shear, one of the football assistant coaches.
It will be difficult for Chambers to stay away from Brophy sporting events. He has been great for athletics at his school and in the state for a long time. The state could use more like him.