Coaching icon Hughes leaves for good

By Brian Gomez

The Larry Hughes era at Corona del Sol High School is officially over.

A coaching icon since the school’s 1977 opening, Hughes has resigned as boys golf coach, citing a desire to enjoy retirement and spend more time with his family, Corona Athletic Director Dan Nero said.

English teacher Bob Beckwith, who assisted the boys golf team last season, has replaced Hughes as head coach. Beckwith coached golf for several years in Ohio before coming to Corona.

Hughes’ resignation marks the end of a storied run that included six state championships--four in girls basketball, one in football and one in boys golf. That’s more titles than any coach in school history.

After Corona’s fifth-place finish at last year’s Class 5A state tournament, Hughes said he would “stick around probably two more years,” unless the Arizona Interscholastic Association moved the boys golf season from the fall to the spring.

Boys golf still is being played in the fall, but Hughes is content with leaving Corona, Nero said. Hughes enjoys hunting dove and quail, and Nero said Hughes wants to vacation with his wife in Pinetop and Mexico.

“Coach Hughes is a throwback from the old days,” Nero said when Hughes stepped down as girls basketball coach in 2002. “He’s one of those guys who could have stayed with the program for as long as he wanted.

“He had some great kids and great assistants over the years, but you don’t do that overnight. Just like (baseball coach) Ron Davini and (former boys basketball coach) Sammy Duane have done, those things are built with a lot of effort, time and hard work.”

Under Hughes, Corona won the 1982 boys golf state championship as a Class 4A school, beating Douglas and Tucson Flowing Wells in a landslide. The Aztecs finished third in 1980 and 1981.

Corona’s only state championship in football has come under Hughes, who guided the 1980 Aztecs to a 12-1 record and a 23-14 win over now-defunct Phoenix Gerard in the 4A title game.

Led by Preston Dennard, the 1980 team won 12 consecutive games and set school records with 57 touchdowns and 4,331 yards total offense. Corona averaged 30 points per game and posted a school-record five shutouts.

Hughes will be remembered most, though, for his achievements with the girls basketball team, which captured four state championships (1981, 1993, 1994 and 2001), made two runner-up finishes (1980 and 2002) and appeared in the semifinals 10 times under his watch.

In his last two years at the helm, Hughes’ teams went 56-6 and appeared in back-to-back state championship games, beating Mesa Dobson in 2001 to cap a 31-0 season. Corona suffered a 41-38 loss to Mountain Pointe in the 2002 championship game, and Hughes resigned two months later.

At the time of his retirement, his 440 wins were the second-most in Arizona high school girls basketball history behind former Scottsdale Chaparral coach Joe English, who had 454 wins. Hughes finished with a 440-198 record in 25 seasons.

More remarkable than the fact that Hughes’ championship game defeats came by a total of four points – showing just how close he was to winning six girls basketball championships and eight titles overall – was his run of success early in his career.

In a three-year span from 1980-82, Hughes won state championships in football, girls basketball and boys golf, brought home a runner-up trophy in girls basketball and tallied a pair of third-place finishes in boys golf.

There was talk of naming the court at Sammy Duane Gymnasium after Hughes when he left the girls basketball program two years ago, but Nero said he would postpone a decision until Hughes finished coaching boys golf. Plus, he didn’t want any added pressure on incoming coach Pat Reed.

It remains unclear whether the court will be named after Hughes, who has as many basketball state championships as Duane. Like Duane, Hughes has won back-to-back titles.

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@wranglernews.com.