When is the right time to step away?
That’s the question every coach must answer at some point. For longtime Golden Valley football coach Dennis Stubbs, the answer is now.
After 25 years as a head football coach, with stops at Le Grand, Golden Valley, Los Banos and Golden Valley again, Stubbs decided it was time to hand over the reigns to the Cougars program to Rick Martinez.
For Stubbs, the decision wasn’t easy. Especially, coming off an 0-10 season. That’s now how any competitor wants to finish a career, and it almost tempted Stubbs to coach for one more year.
But in the end, the time was right for Stubbs.
“You don’t want to go out the way we finished last year. I thought I had to go another year to prove something,” Stubbs said. “My wife (Jill) said you don’t have to prove anything. You’ve done a lot.
“After thinking it over, it’s just a good time.”
Stubbs, 58, is scheduled to retire after the 2018-19 school year and with his four grandchildren all living in Utah, he and Jill will likely move there to be closer to their family shortly after he retires.
“There’s nothing like playing with the grandchildren,” Stubbs.
Stubbs has left quite a mark in Merced County during his 25 years as coach. All the players who have played for him and all the coaches who have coached with him and against him over the years.
The Stubbs’ coaching tree includes Dustin Caropreso at Los Banos, David Snapp at Pacheco and Rick Martinez at Golden Valley. Atwater coach Seneca Ybarra and Le Grand coach Aaron Martinez also spent time playing for Stubbs.
“I owe him a ton, having been able to coach and learn under him,” said Caropreso, who was Stubbs’ offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2011. “I tell people there are three people who have influenced me the most when it comes to coaching. It’s my father (Gary), coach Stubbs and coach (Don) Toscano. That’s the three guys who have played a big role in my life as a coach. Coach Stubbs allowed me to work under him, learn his system and learn how to run a successful program.”
Stubbs started his coaching career as an assistant for three years at Hughson High. He then spent one year as an assistant at Livingston and then six years coaching under Mark Speckman at Merced High.
He then coached at Le Grand for two years, before replacing Speckman at Golden Valley in 1995. He led the Cougars to the Sac-Joaquin Section championship games in 1995 and 1999.
Stubbs left Golden Valley after the 2006 season and spend five years coaching at Los Banos, leading the Tigers to two league championships and four postseason appearances. The Tigers were 36-21 under Stubbs from 2007-2011.
“When I took over the transition was easy for me,” Caropreso said. “The car was already running. I just had to drive it. I just added my own stuff later on.”
Stubbs’ return to Golden Valley wasn’t as successful. The Cougars best record was 5-5 in the six years since Stubbs returned from Los Banos.
“It was hard,” said Stubbs, who finishes with a career record of 139-131-1. “I take the blame for it. I thought I could just come in and supervise and I found out I just couldn’t do that.”
The Cougars just couldn’t get any momentum during Stubb’s second stint as Cougars coach. It didn’t help that he had three different defensive coordinators in the six years. Stubbs was hoping to come back and delegate responsibilities to his coaching staff and just oversee everything.
“It didn’t work out like that,” he said.
Still it was a remarkable career that stretched over three decades in a time when many coaches don’t last very long. He found ways to win in different ways. When he took over the Golden Valley job he stuck with Speckman’s fly offense with Kevin Swartwood as the offensive coordinator.
“When I first got to (Merced), we couldn’t beat those guys,” said Merced coach Rob Scheidt. “It was a tough deal. Dennis was always gracious in winning. Win, lose or draw, he’s always been a great guy and I respect that about him. I appreciate his friendship and perspective on the game.”
He later changed to a more pro-style offense. Each year he tried to play to his team’s strengths. If he had a good quarterback, his teams would throw more. If he ran a good running back, his team would run the ball. He adjusted to what he had and it worked out for him.
Stubbs his happy to see the Golden Valley program end up in the hands of Martinez. It was Stubbs who hired on Martinez as an assistant at Le Grand.
Martinez was the head coach at Le Grand fro 12 years, where he led the Bulldogs to four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championships from 2010-2013, including an appearance in the state championship in 2011. Martinez rejoined Stubbs at Golden Valley four years ago as an assistant.
It’s no surprise that Martinez is the next guy up at Golden Valley. The early plan is for Stubbs to serve as Martinez’s defensive coordinator next season.
“You knew it was going to happen,” Stubbs said. “He wanted to wait a year. That was the plan. It just didn’t work out that way. But he talked to his family and decided to go for it.”
What will Stubbs remember most about the past 25 years?
“There’s too many memories that stick out,” Stubbs said. “I loved every minute of it. I take pride in what I did in the four different stops I made. Even though we didn’t get it done the last time at Golden Valley, people still respected us.
“I’ll miss the players. I’ll miss the coaches who have been coaching with me for a long time. I’m here during the NFL playoffs and I’m jotting stuff down. I don’t have that out of my system. I may never get that out of my system. I may find myself in Utah coaching defensive backs.”