Steve Denman officially announced his retirement Friday, January 20, ending his 35th straight season as the Tehachapi Warrior
head coach. Denman also realized a milestone in 2016 winning his 300th career game in the home finale against West High.
Photo by the Bakersfield Californian.
Posted on Jan 20, 2017 by Trevor Horn, The Bakersfield Californian
Warrior Coaching Legend
Denman Retires After 35 Years and 301 Wins
In typical Steve Denman fashion, without any pomp and circumstance, press conference or fan frenzy, the longtime Tehachapi football coach retired on Tuesday.
After 35 years and 301 wins, all at Tehachapi, he walked into Tehachapi athletic director Pat Snyder’s office and presented a letter of resignation.
That moment in itself is so Denman.
“It was interesting,” Snyder said.
Snyder played for Denman in the early 1980s before joining his staff the last two-plus decades as an assistant coach and spending the past six years as the AD.
Denman was also a groomsman in Snyder’s wedding three years ago and. Snyder and Denman’s other two longtime assistants, Dennis Ruggles and Bill Carll, had already decided collectively to step down as a coaching staff.
Denman has long deflected any attention on himself, instead heaping praise to the players, his coaching staff and the community of Tehachapi for the accomplishments — and there are many — during his run as the football coach.
Denman shied away from accolades even more as he neared the career milestone of win No. 300, which he achieved at home Nov. 4 in the regular-season finale, 27-0 over West.
None of the numbers mattered.
“We laugh because if we didn’t get 300, we wouldn’t have come back anyway,” Denman said. “We acknowledge it’s a great accomplishment, but it wasn’t the reason we came back.”
What did matter was the relationships with players, members of the community, faculty and his three coaching buddies.
“I don’t think it’s about me retiring,” Denman said. “It’s the whole staff getting out. It’s the kids. Our success has been on the great community. We’ve had great kids and continuity with our staff.”
Snyder said that in the coming months, there will be ceremonies to celebrate Denman’s career, but he wants to be sure not to “embarrass” his former coach, colleague and dear friend.
“He has said from years past, Steve saw how some coaches retired and he said, ‘In my time, I don’t want a party. I want to ride off into the sunset.’” Snyder said. “It’s right in line with what he has done.
“I have been trying to respect with what he wants. But we will do some things for him. I don’t want to embarrass him.”
Denman retires as one of only eight coaches in state history with 300 wins, according to Cal-Hi Sports. Denman’s career record was 301-118-4.
He is also the career wins leader in Kern County history. Only two others have 200 wins: Ned Permenter (Foothill, 1965-2001, 220-157-9) and Paul Briggs (Bakersfield, 1953-85, 209-99-12).
Under Denman, the Warriors won 14 league titles, five Central Section championships and two more section titles as members of the Southern Section.
In an era in which high school coaches are getting burned out because of the year-round commitment and competitiveness, Denman stayed put for more than three decades because of his friendship with his coaching staff.
“I survived because of the great guys I have working with me,” Denman said.
He was 24 years old when Ruggles, his defensive coordinator, hired Denman in 1982 to replace Gary Ogilvie.
Denman said he did have moments where he nearly quit, but when Snyder came on staff, he said “Pat gave me a shot in the arm.”
“I almost left before Pat came in,” Denman said. “But you alleviate a lot of the stress of this job because of the staff. Also with great kids. You will always have parents, some may go overboard. But not many. It’s been a good situation here.”
Denman and Snyder both acknowledge how difficult it will be to step away because the four coaches have spent countless hours together over the years.
“All of us have been such good friends,” Snyder said. “We love the kids, but at the same time, we all enjoy each other so much. We will miss the kids. But us four being together, we will miss that.”
Added Denman: “As a football coach, even in the offseason you are in the weight room or with the booster club. It’s a never-ending thing. It’s year-round. You take a week off in July, then the season is here.”
Denman will continue to teach physical education at Tehachapi until his retirement in two years. His wife, Judy, is also a P.E. teacher on campus. The two have three grandchildren, and Denman is ready for that phase of his life.
“It will be fun to have them around after school,” he said.
The next step for Snyder is to find a replacement for a legend.
“Trying to find a replacement for him, the next guy will have a lot of pressure,” Snyder said. “Here’s Denman, a great up here, and he’s going to come in after that. It’s tough. But it’s going to have to be the right fit.”
As for Denman, it won’t surprise anyone to know his thoughts on a replacement are simple: “Someone else will come in and do a great job.”
Steve Denman retired Friday (Jan. 20, 2017) along with his assistants Bill Carll, Dennis Ruggles, and Pat Snyder.
The search for a new head coach will begin this coming week. Photo by the Bakersfield Californian.
Posted on Jan 20, 2017 by John Nelson, The Tehachapi News
Denman Retires With 301 Wins As Warriors Football Coach
Carll, Ruggles, & Snyder Also Resign
Steve Denman, calling it time to move on, announced his retirement on Friday, Jan. 20, after 35 years and 301 victories as head football coach at Tehachapi High School.
“It's time to get out of coaching and let somebody else take it over,” the 59-year-old Denman told The Tehachapi News by telephone.
It was a group decision, Denman said. He and his three assistant coaches — Pat Snyder, Bill Carll and defensive coordinator Dennis Ruggles — all resigned at the same time.
“We hung it up, all four of us,” Denman said. “We talked it over, and it's just time for all of us. Everybody's got something else they want to do.”
Snyder, who is also the Tehachapi athletic director, said the decision was made on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Denman will continue to teach physical education at the high school.
Denman said he and Snyder began telling his players Friday morning.
“It's tough with the kids mainly,” Denman said. “You get a connection with them, and they're loyal to you, but you can't coach forever. At some point we had to say we're done.”
Denman leaves with 301 career victories, a milestone that only seven other high school football coaches in California have ever reached.
The Warriors gave Denman his 300th victory in their final game of the regular season on Nov. 4, 2016 by beating West 35-7 and tacked on 301 with a 27-0 victory over Delano in the first round of the playoffs.
After the season, Denman said he would sit down with his coaching staff to discuss the future.
“It depends on everybody and how they all feel,” Denman said at the time. “The most important thing is that I really enjoy being out there with the kids at practice, having fun with them.
“That's what I really enjoy.”
Last season was not an easy one for Denman or his staff. They started 1-5, and there was some concern that he wouldn't reach the 300-victory milestone in 2016.
Then, the Warriors totally turned their season around, winning five in a row and earning a share of the South Yosemite League championship with a 4-1 record.
The other California coaches with 300 or more wins are Bob Ladouceur (399), Marijon Ancich (360), Herb Meyer (338), John Barnes (323), Lou Farrar (316), Bob Johnson (315) and Mike Marrujo (306).
Ladouceur, who set his coaching mark with Concord De La Salle from 1979-2012, and Denman are the only two coaches to reach the plateau at one school.
Last November, Denman made it clear that any decision to retire would be a decision he'd make with his staff.
“We'd want to try to keep the staff together, so it depends on everybody and how they all feel,” Denman said. “This is a time consuming game. It takes a lot of time from your personal life, during the season and the off season.”
Ruggles, who has been with Denman for 32 years, wants to travel, Denman said, and Carll has a grandson who will be playing football at Liberty. “I know he'd like to see him play,” Denman said.
“Not that it wasn't fun,” Denman said. “It was fun right to the last day. All four of us are great friends, and it's been a lot of fun. … It just got to the point for all of us that it was time to get out.”
The possibility of Denman's retirement was rumored during the season, especially if and when he reached the 300-win plateau. Although no replacement has been announced, it was expected that junior varsity head coach Ryan Grimes would receive consideration.
Snyder said Denman's successor could be named soon.
“We have no one in mind yet,” Snyder said. “We're working that out for next week.”
Whoever replaces him, Denman understands what it's like to follow a legend. Denman also had to replace a legend in Gary Ogilvie.
“You've just got to make your own way, find your own path,” Denman said. “It's a good place to coach.”