The month-long search for the next head football coach at Mountain Pointe High School has come to an end, as Marcos de Niza coach Eric Lauer has been recommended to take over the Pride program.
“We are excited to welcome Mr. Lauer back to Mountain Pointe as our new head coach,” said Mountain Pointe Principal Tomika Banks in a press release. “We are looking forward to the future.”
Lauer will take over the program after former coach Rich Wellbrock stepped down after two years leading the program. Wellbrock, who led Desert Edge to its only championship in 2015, coached Mountain Pointe to an 8-14 overall record during his tenure. The Pride went 1-9 this season.
Lauer served as an assistant coach at Mountain Pointe for 12 years under former coaches Karl Kiefer, Phil Abbadessa and Norris Vaughan. He was elevated to assistant head coach by Vaughan during Mountain Pointe’s best run in program history when the Pride won the program’s only state title in 2013.
“I love Mountain Pointe and I love Eric Lauer,” said Vaughan, who was the head coach of Arnold High in Panama City, Fla. this past season. “He’s a super coach and an even better person. I think it’s a great hire and I think he will do well.”
Mountain Pointe Athletic Director Aaron Frana, who coached with Lauer under Vaughan, said the hiring committee was focused on finding “someone who is passionate about improving culture and building a competitive football program.”
Needless to say, Frana and the committee believed they would get it with Lauer.
“Coach Lauer is about creating relationships with our student-athletes and building a competitive football program,” Frana said. “Coach Lauer has been a part of the Mountain Pointe community and understands the needs of our students and families. He will bring back the success and competitive drive the program had under Kiefer and Vaughan.
“I am excited to be a part of it.”
Lauer took on an assistant coaching role at Arizona Christian University after Wellbrock was hired to take over the Mountain Pointe program in 2018. He coached the Firestorm throughout the spring before being hired to take over the Marcos de Niza program to replace the late Paul Moro.
“Marcos gave me the opportunity after Norris left,” Lauer said. “They helped give me the credibility to get another chance after all of those guys (at Marcos) bought in and helped turn things around in 18 months.”
Lauer coached the Padres to a 9-13 overall record in his two seasons, making the playoffs this year before losing in the quarterfinals to championship-bound Mesquite after upsetting second-ranked Canyon Del Oro in the first round.
He informed Marcos de Niza players of his departure on Thursday morning. Even with the excitement of being able to go back to a program that held a special place in his heart for so many years, he said it was tough to have to tell them the news.
“Today has been real hard for me because I try to hang my hat on making our relationship about more than just football,” Lauer said. “How do you tell a young person you love them and you want the best for them but at the same time you’re leaving? I told them if I leave here as just your football coach then I didn’t do my job.
“Right now, today, it’s about me having to give bad news to guys and it doesn’t feel good. But I know Marcos will keep moving forward. That’s a great group of players.”
Lauer will maintain his position as a Health and Wellness Coach for the Tempe Union district. He is tasked with developing programming focusing on the prevention of underage drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug misuse and abuse.
Those in this position work with students, staff and parents at several of the district’s schools to create and execute awareness campaigns and special events will help students make healthy choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
“I have a great opportunity to go back somewhere I have spent a lot of time,” Lauer said. “I’m looking forward to building a positive culture at Mountain Pointe - embracing the chase and getting back to balance.”