The Arizona Community College Athletic Association (ACCAC) will look a little different this junior college season, after Mesa Community College Head Coach Sam Ballard recently stepped down as head coach at the program. Ballard who coached for (12) seasons at MCC decided to leave the program in late October, just before the start to another season - stating that the lack of financial support for the program led to his decision. As a result, Ballard has chosen to take some time off, before looking for other opportunities available to him and his family in the future.
It had been thought for some time that Ballard might choose to retire at some point, after a long and illustrious coaching career in the state that began in 1978. Ballard's long, Hall of Fame career in Arizona has included a total of (22) years in the high school ranks at Scottsdale Judson, Camelback and Mountain Pointe High School, where he put together an overall 347-187 record. He also coached for (17) years in junior college, between Yavapai JC and Mesa JC, where he compiled a 265-138 record. For his accomplishments, Ballard was selected to the Mountain Pointe Sports Hall of Fame and also the Arizona High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Ballard, however, has not chosen to retire, but instead will evaluate things for himself, and could coach again, for the right opportunity. Ballard advised other media outlets that it became difficult to compete at the program and to recruit, due to the lack of financial support provided for the basketball program at MCC. While the tuition for students at the school continued to climb, Ballard felt very little financial support for athletic scholarships, in a Division-I NJCAA basketball program that did not provide housing or meal plans for their players - making it very challenging to build a program that could compete with other Division-I junior college programs. The rise in prep schools in the valley and also more college programs with better resources also made it a challenge to recruit the state's best prospects.
I spoke with Sam Ballard's son, Desert Vista High School Head Coach Jordan Ballard, who was developed by his father and also coached with him at MCC previously, and he advised me that his father wanted to move on, but is not looking to retire. He also stated that the vacant job could be given to one of the current MCC assistant coaches.
Ballard has been a legend in coaching in the state of Arizona, and came from a long and historic coaching tree in the state that includes many, but such basketball legends as Royce Youree (East High) and Hector Bejarano (North HS). I was personally coached by Youree and Bejarano as a youth, and understand the importance of these two men in Arizona basketball, and also the many contributions of Sam Ballard. As someone that also played against Ballard's teams at Camelback High School in the 1980's, and has known him for much of my life, I am in honor of his exploits on and off the basketball court. He will be surely missed in the ACCAC this season, and in the future, but I look forward to seeing where he lands next, as he is one of the very best coaches of all-time.