PAGE – The Page High girls basketball head coach who led the Sand Devils to their fifth consecutive championship is stepping down.
Longtime coach Ryan Whitehorse, 28, is resigning as Lady Sand Devils head coach and as a career and technical education teacher at the high school. His last day of work for the Page Unified School District is on May 21. But he wants to come home to Sand Devils Country soon.
Whitehorse, who is Diné, is planning to return to school to obtain his master’s degree at the University of Arizona.
“I’ll be attending U of A this summer at the Phoenix campus,” Whitehorse said. “I’ve been planning this for the last couple of years. I got accepted last year, but I held off. It was a tough decision, but I finally got to do it.”
Whitehorse said it was a tough decision because he enjoys teaching, coaching the Lady Sand Devils and “seeing their growth,” and being part of the PUSD family.
“I anticipate (being) back. I’m not done with coaching,” Whitehorse said. “I plan to come back for sure. I just want to go back (to school) and finish my master’s, get situated with that and then come back.”
Whitehorse, who’s originally from Kaibeto, Arizona, started work for PUSD five years ago in 2016.
Whitehorse said he started coaching basketball after graduating from Page High School in 2010. He’s coached the middle school students as well as the Lake Powell Gunners. He’s also coached the freshmen and the junior varsity teams at the high school.
“Then I went back to school and then I came back again,” Whitehorse explained. “I was fortunate enough to get the varsity position of the head coach, of the girls program and that alone was a tremendous success on my part because there’s so much history and so much with the girls program that it was an honor to be selected as head coach. And have the success that we’ve had the last five years.”
Whitehorse won his third 3A state title in four seasons. He has a career record of 117-23, which is a winning percentage of 84%.
“All the girls that have come through our program, even before I started coaching––and all the girls who came through our program when I was head coach, from the first year to this past year, they are a great group of girls,” Whitehorse said. “They all kept this program successful. They’re one of the best in the state.”
Whitehorse said he thanks all the people, including other basketball coaches and athletes’ families, who’ve mentored him and helped him along his five-year journey.
“Just the community too, the community of Page, they’ve always supported us,” Whitehorse said. “Traveling two-plus hours two or three days a week watching us play. It was a huge honor to be part of that type of program.”
Whitehorse said even though he loves what he does, it can be a struggle and emotionally draining.
“Coaching isn’t just a four-month commitment. We do off-season stuff; we do summer ball traveling. It’s not just the season that we focus on,” Whitehorse said. “It’s the growth year-round. It’s a lot.”
He said what kept him motivated and determined was his players’ drive, commitment, and their motivation.
“Every new group that I had every year, they all had the mentality to get to the championship game,” Whitehorse said. “That just kept me going every year––year end and year out. If it wasn’t for school, I would definitely come back for another year.”
Whitehorse is Táchii’nii (Bitáá’chii’nii), meaning Red Running Into the Water (Red Ochre Forehead) and born for Kiyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan).
“I still have my goals personally … and getting my RN (degree in nursing) and giving back to my community. I’m just going to take a little break and then I hope to come back,” Whitehorse added.