Originally Published: December 20, 2013 6:02 a.m.
CHINO VALLEY - For the first time in more than 40 years next fall, Chuck Apap won't be on a football sideline.
The career coach/teacher is hanging up his whistle and retiring after a 43-year high school football-coaching career, the past two seasons of which have been spent guiding the Chino Valley Cougars.
The bulk of his career came in his native Michigan, where Apap was named to the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame in 2000. Since relocating to Arizona, Apap coached at Bradshaw Mountain High School from 2005-11 before taking the Chino post.
On Thursday, the Chino Valley athletic department announced Apap's coaching retirement from the Cougar program.
"If I looked at a yardstick, we went at least two-thirds of the way on the yard stick. Now the question is we need to go the next one-third of the way," Apap said of his Chino stint. "I want Chino to be a football powerhouse, that's what I want."
The Cougars struggled over the past two seasons, finishing a combined 4-16. But the program made significant strides under Apap.
When he took over two years ago, there were only 12 returning players in the whole program. Over the last two seasons, Apap led the effort to acquire all new equipment, including 63 brand new helmets, shoulder pads, uniforms (home, away and practice), knee pads, thigh pads and more than 100 travel bags for all the gear. The team raised more than $60,000 to cover the costs and used no school district money.
"But, I'm tired. I'm gonna turn 66, and I'm tired," Apap said candidly on Thursday.
"It was time for me to retire. I wish Chino the best. Whoever takes over will not have to worry about equipment. It's all there. ... Whoever comes in will have my 100 percent support. I'll help them in any way I can."
Apap's successor will inherit 35 varsity players next season, all juniors and seniors.
"We're not going to totally close ourselves out, but our preference is to get somebody on campus," Chino athletic director Pete Jelovic said Thursday regarding the search for Apap's replacement.
He says the district will post the vacancy next week and start actively searching, and will consider applicants with and without varsity head-coaching experience.
"We're going to look for the best choice that fits Chino Valley High School. We're gonna find someone that fits the best and can relate to the kids and can get the most out of the school and community," Jelovic said.
"So we're not going to limit ourselves. I have no problems giving a first-time guy an opportunity."
Apap succeeded Mike McMahon to become Bradshaw Mountain's coach in 2005. In that first season - his first coaching job in Arizona - Apap posted the school's best-ever record in the then-Class 4A with a 7-3 mark, and clinched its first region title. The Bears also hosted a state playoff game.
In July 2008, Apap's coaching future looked to be in jeopardy when he suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery. A rough 2008 season followed as he returned part-time.
His Bears charged back in 2009. The team overcame an 0-2 start, beat rival Prescott in their annual clash, and clinched a playoff berth in the final game of the regular season. Bradshaw went on to upset No. 5-ranked Peoria on the road in the first round of the state playoffs.
"I was in heaven," he said that year, after earning All-Courier Coach of the Year honors, which he would win again the next season. "It was great to be back. But it was even greater to be back in full health. The last probably four years I didn't realize that I wasn't up to par."
After guiding the Bears to six playoff appearances in seven years with a 44-37 overall record in Prescott Valley, Apap made the switch across town and succeeded Bob David as Chino Valley's head coach.
Although retiring from coaching, Apap will stay on as a math teacher on campus.
Outside of that, he'll be happily planning more opportunities to see his grandchildren back in Michigan.
And he'll be spending more time with his wife, Carrie Ann.
"It's time now that I have to think of my wife. She's been with me for 43 years. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during football she hardly sees me," said Apap, who reports his health now is "very, very good."
"I'll be going to football games. But I'm gonna go with my wife. She went to a lot of football games in 43 years," he laughed.
"But the neat part is I'll be able to go with her and talk to her and see if she knows football."