2023 High School Football

Highly respected, longtime local coach Pat Ryden hired to lead Salpointe’s program

Pat Ryden, who was an assistant coach at Pima College from 2009 to 2017, is the new head coach of the Salpointe Lancers

After more than 30 years of coaching experience in Tucson, including two seasons as the head coach at Rincon/University in 2007 and 2008, Pat Ryden is now leading of one of the highest profile programs in the state — Salpointe Catholic.

Salpointe announced his hire as head coach on Wednesday morning.

Ryden, 53, was defensive coordinator at Salpointe since the 2019 season under Eric Rogers, who previously was on the same staff as Ryden at Pima Community College.

Rogers was 35-12 in his four seasons with the Lancers. Salpointe went to the 5A state championship game in 2021 under Rogers, who was hired in 2019 after Dennis Bene resigned.

Rogers resigned Dec. 5 after he and the school mutually decided to part ways.

“I’ve been assistant coach for a long time, and honestly, it wasn’t something that I was planning on,” Ryden said about becoming Salpointe’s coach. “The opportunity presented itself and I obviously was interested. Salpointe is a special place.

“I absolutely have to thank Eric Rogers for bringing me to Salpointe. I told our kids today that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. I think it’s a great way to kind of wrap up my career. I’m not at the end, but nearing the end. I feel like I got a lot of years left and a lot to give still.”

After playing as a standout receiver and defensive back at Flowing Wells, Ryden served as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 1989-93. He then was an assistant from 1995-98 at Santa Rita before returning to Flowing Wells in 1999 to coach under Pat Nugent.

Ryden went with Nugent to CDO in 2000 and was defensive coordinator with the Dorados until 2006 before becoming the Rincon/University head coach in 2007.

He was 6-14 in his two seasons with the Rangers before rejoining Nugent at Pima College in 2009.

Ryden served as defensive coordinator for Nugent and Jim Monaco with the Aztecs until the program was terminated following the 2017 season.

“I’ve been around some tremendous guys — Pat and Jim Monaco and there’s a number of assistant coaches that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years who have been amazing,” Ryden said. “I think as a coach, you’re a lifelong learner, and probably 90 percent of everything I know came from somebody else.”

Another coach Ryden credits his development especially with defense is the late Dan Wickland, who died in 2020 from esophageal cancer at age 63. Wickland coached at Santa Rita and Pima with Ryden.

“Dan had been around high school football here in Tucson forever, and a lot of what we do at Salpointe has Dan Wickland stamped on it,” Ryden said. “He was a tremendous football mind.”

Nugent and Ryden were junior varsity coaches together at Flowing Wells in the early 1990s after Nugent served as a graduate assistant under Dick Tomey at Arizona and Ryden earned his undergraduate degree at NAU.

“Pat has been one of the top assistant coaches in Tucson for the past 30 years, has paid his dues and deserves the chance to coach an elite team,” Nugent mentioned.

“His knowledge and passion for the game has made him a top defensive coordinator for a long time.”

When they reunited at Flowing Wells in 1999 with Nugent as the head coach, Dustin Peace was one of the Caballeros’ top defenders at linebacker.

Peace went on to coach with Nugent and Ryden at CDO before becoming the head coach of the Dorados in 2009 when Nugent was hired at Pima College.

Nugent also had Amphi coach Jorge Mendivil and longtime local coach Shawn Wasson on his staff at Flowing Wells.

“I am so happy for Coach Ryden,” Peace mentioned. “The reality is he could have had any job he wanted in this city for the past 25 years plus years he has been coaching in Tucson.

“The longer he is working with the youth in our city, the more great young men there will be. I have been honored to be one of those young me and he certainly has shaped my life.”

Ryden said he is in the process of gathering assistant coaches “who are great teachers with tremendous character” to be on his staff. He has not made any hires as of yet.

Plenty of work goes into being Salpointe’s coach, including fund-raising and being the figurehead for a program that is traditionally one of the most competitive in the state. The Lancers compete in the state’s largest conference, the 6A.

The challenge is similar to coaching a college program because of all the organizational duties off the football field.

“I’ve been able to kind of watch and learn from afar, and now I’m gonna get thrown into it,” Ryden said. “It’s a big task but I’m looking forward to it. We’re gonna jump right in. We’ve already gotten started (with a team meeting Wednesday morning). It’s exciting.”

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. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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