In five of Gary Minor’s seven seasons as head coach at Ironwood Ridge, the Nighthawks won at least eight games. 

Jim Davis / Arizona Daily Star 2006

Over the next 25 days, the Star will count down our picks for Tucson’s 25 best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown begins today with Gary Minor, who didn’t need much time before turning Ironwood Ridge into a heavyweight contender.

No. 25: Gary Minor

School: Ironwood Ridge

Years in coaching: 2002-2008

Local record: 60-27

Achievements: After going 57-4-1 as a JV coach at Canyon del Oro, Minor needed just one season to turn the Ironwood Ridge football team into a perennial playoff contender. The Nighthawks missed the state playoffs in their inaugural season in 2002 but qualified each of the next six years.

I-Ridge had at least eight wins in five of Minor’s seven years with the team. Since leaving the Nighthawks after the 2008 season, Minor has been an assistant at Catalina Foothills and Marana.

Memorable moment: In his final season at I-Ridge, Minor coached the Nighthawks to their best season to that point with a 10-3 record and a trip to the 5A-II state semifinals. Before losing to eventual champion Peoria Centennial there, No. 4 I-Ridge had one of its biggest wins in school history when it knocked off area power Sunnyside 24-17 in the state quarterfinals. Former UA linebacker Jake Fischer rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in the win and is widely considered the best player to come out of I-Ridge.

From the archives: “I look forward to building a strong, winning tradition. It’s definitely exciting to start out with a school that has this potential.” — Minor in the May 31, 2001, Arizona Daily Star.

Big number: 6. Once I-Ridge was established as a varsity program, with regional opponents, Minor was dominant in league play.

The Nighthawks lost just six games through six seasons while winning 24 against their opponents in 4A Sonoran, 4A-I Sonoran and 5A-II Southern region play.

Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 24 in Friday’s Star.

Chuck Constantino