Karl Kiefer, who led the chargers in winning three state titles for McClintock High School and is credited with starting the Mountain Pointe football program, is receiving hospice care following a recent heart attack.
It’s Kiefer’s latest bout with health-related issues and came while he was in a rehab facility following a fall about a month ago, which resulted in a broken rib.
“When they moved him to the ER they did an angiogram and angioplasty,” said David Klecka, the dean of students at Desert Vista High School who played and coached under Kiefer. “They realized there was nothing they could do from there.”
Doctors sent Kiefer back to his assisted-living facility in Chandler to continue receiving hospice care. He called Klecka to inform him of what had transpired.
“He told me he was back home and I told him, ‘well, that’s great news,’” Klecka recalled. “He said, ‘not really, they sent me home for hospice care,’ which is never good news.
“I was kind of speechless and then the next words out of his mouth were, ‘can you stop Chubba?’ He’s still coach Kiefer and he still wants to talk football.”
Desert Vista defeated Perry last Friday in the 6A quarterfinals, 70-63. Klecka and Kiefer spoke Sunday about the game.
“He wanted to know how we won a football game after giving up 63 points,” Klecka said.
Klecka said Kiefer still gives him a hard time for coaching Mountain Pointe’s rival. But that’s something that doesn’t surprise Klecka, as Kiefer always demonstrated strong loyalty to the two schools and many players he coached through the years.
Kiefer is credited for coaching McClintock to three state championships during his tenure. To this day, his fondest memories come from his time coaching at McClintock.
“It would have to be the first state championship at McClintock High School in 1977,” Kiefer said. “We won it against Washington High School. I started coaching there in 1963 so it took a long time to get there.
“It was a great night in the old Sun Devil Stadium.”
Kiefer coached the Chargers to their two other state titles in 1980 and 1989 before leaving to start the football program at Mountain Pointe High School. He remained as the Pride head coach until 2005, when he stepped down due to health concerns.
While at Mountain Pointe, he forced football players to play more than one sport. If they didn’t he made them run track, which he also coached.
“We really had a good track team,” Kiefer said. “We had a good number of our football players out there. My football coaches coached track also.”
The football stadium at Mountain Pointe was named in his honor. It wasn’t uncommon to see Kiefer at every Pride home game, sitting to the left of the scoreboard bearing his name in the north end zone.
On Tuesday, his condition was made public in a Facebook post to the McClintock High School Alumni page. He had several former players visit that day. He treats every one of them like his own family, which he admires dearly.
Friday, Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving marks Kiefer’s 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Sharon, who has been by his side at the assisted-living facility in Chandler every step of the way. Kiefer told Klecka he plans to make it until then in order to celebrate.
“My wife is a fantastic woman,” Kiefer said. “It’s been a good trip. We have three children, they’re wonderful.”
Klecka said he has little doubt in his mind that Kiefer will be able to celebrate six decades with his beloved wife.
The Arizona high school coaching legend has fought through adversity his entire life, and Klecka doesn’t believe he will give up now.
“He’s a fighter,” Klecka said. “He’s had strokes, he gets congestive heart failure. Each time it takes his toll on him, but you would never know if it gets to him mentally. He just always stays so positive.
“He’s as strong as an ox.”