Former Phoenix College and Phoenix Maryvale High School football coach Ken Stites died on Sunday, leaving so many players and coaches he worked with memories that will last forever.
Stites, who suffered a stroke in January, was 76.
Phoenix Brophy Prep football coach Scooter Molander called Stites “the best coach I’ve ever been around.”
Molander played quarterback for Stites at Phoenix College in 1985 and ’86 when the Bears were conference champions and won the Valley of the Sun Bowl each season.
“He was so detailed, so great with the staff,” Molander said. “He had an amazing ability to build you up when you were down. And when you thought you were really good, he knew how to critique.”
Stites, who attended Mesa and South Mountain high schools in the 1950s, was all-state in football and won a state wrestling championship at South Mountain.
He played on Phoenix College’s first undefeated football team in 1959 and was on Arizona State’s wrestling team in 1961 and ’62, before moving into coaching in ’63 at Maryvale.
He took over the Maryvale program in ’67 and led the Panthers to a 25-14-1 record in four years.
Shanty Hogan hired Stites to be part of his Phoenix College staff in 1971.
Stites became head coach at PC in 1976 and, in 11 years, he went 80-26-4, winning six conference championships and playing in five bowl games. His ’78 team went undefeated and tied New Mexico Military Institute in the Wool Bowl in Rosewell, N.M.
Stites helped Molander, a former Tempe Corona del Sol quarterback, get a scholarship to Colorado State.
“He instilled a confidence that you knew you would win,” Molander said. “It was not a question of if you’re going to win, but how you’re going to win.”
Stites always surrounded himself with quality assistants, including former Paradise Valley head coach Bob Lambie and former Phoenix Central head coach Ray Laing. Laing, who had been helping Molander at Brophy, died in January 2016.
“He got them to go to Phoenix College not for the money,” Molander said. “It was a family.”
Family was huge for Stites, who was married 55 years to his wife, Lana.
Tracey Mahon, Stites’ daughter, recalls a motto from his dad: “Chew ’em out once, then love ’em three times.”
“Being the daughter of Kenny Stites was nothing but a privilege,” Mahon said. “He loved more than anything else.”
A memorial service will be held April 9, a Sunday, at 1 p.m. at Phoenix College Bulpitt Auditorium.