Cienega hires Justin Argraves, creating significant opening at Tucson High

Justin Argraves and his family moved closer to Vail last year and now he is stepping into the prestigious coaching position there at Cienega High School after serving the last 10 seasons as Tucson High’s coach.

“Hard decision but I think it’s the best for my family,” said Argraves, who accepted Cienega’s offer Friday morning. “I’m really excited. Got a good feel when I met with them. High expectations and big shoes to fill.”

Argraves will replace Pat Nugent, who has shifted to the new varsity program at Mica Mountain, which is also in the Vail School District.

Nugent was 48-14 in six years as Cienega’s coach including 12-1 seasons in 2016 and 2017 with Jamarye Joiner at quarterback. He is 138-57 overall in 18 seasons as a head coach.

Justin Argraves was 53-43 in 10 years at Tucson High (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The hire of Argraves and Nugent must be approved by the Vail School District, potentially in Tuesday’s meeting, to become official, but that will be a formality.

Argraves, a University of Arizona and Santa Rita High School graduate, was 53-43 in his 10 seasons at Tucson High. He is 56-50 overall in his 11 years of coaching, including his debut in 2010 at Mountain View.

Being with the Badgers’ program for decade made it difficult for Argraves to say farewell to his players in a Zoom call at noon Friday.

“Super hard telling them,” Argraves said. “My favorite memories were seeing kids be successful after they left Tucson High and creating lifelong relationships with incredible people.

“I was blessed to cross paths with many individuals at Tucson High who made me better as a coach and a person.”

Argraves is the son of legendary Mike Argraves, who coached softball, volleyball, track and basketball for 32 years at Tucson, Cholla and Santa Rita before passing away in December 2016.

New Cienega coach Justin Argraves, left, with his father and mentor Mike Argraves, a longtime coaching figure in Tucson who passed away in 2016 (AllSportsTucson.com photo)

The program Argraves is leaving at Tucson High will be very enticing for other coaches to fill.

Tucson plays in the highest classification of the state — at 6A — and it is a magnet school that can draw students from all over the region.

One name that has surfaced for the position among coaches and other sources in Southern Arizona is former Salpointe coach Dennis Bene, who was offered the position at Cienega before removing his name from consideration.

“I think Tucson High is a sleeping giant but I have not given any thought about that job,” said Bene, who coached at Salpointe for 19 seasons and led the Lancers to a state title in 2013.

Concerning Argraves’ hire at Cienega, Bene mentioned, “I am really happy for Justin. He is a good coach and a better person. I believe he will be very successful at Cienega.”


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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