Arizona's all-time winningest basketball coach's career coming to an end

Posted at 10:58 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 06:32:22-05

MESA, AZ — An Arizona coaching legend is being shown the door. It's a growing controversy in Mesa as the state's all-time winningest basketball coach will be out after this season.

East Valley basketball fans packed the gym at Mesa High School Tuesday. People watched the game being played but also noticed the true headline was the farewell to Mountain View High School coach Gary Ernst.

With a tribute to the head coach of Mountain View’s boy's basketball, it's a view Ernst has seen for 38 years now starting to fade.

"I am about ready to pop. I am just emotionally drained,” said Ernst.

Arizona's all-time winningest basketball coach at the boy's high school level spent time with family and friends before his final regular-season game.

"I tried to fight it and I lost. So, I can live with it. It's hurt a lot of people. But, I will survive,” added coach Ernst.

Ernst learned a few days ago he was out of a job.

He says Mountain View's principal wanted new energy even though the coach's career includes more than 940 wins — many of those with his son by his side.

"All I know is going to a gym for games two or three nights a week. So, it's going to be weird for me, too,” said Jason Ernst, the coach's son.

The principal of the opposing team's school, Mesa High, offered his school's support Tuesday night.

"It's important because of what he's done, what he's meant to the community and not just the Mountain View community. But, the Mesa community in general. The basketball community as well,” said Principal Kirk Thomas.

Coach Ernst says he still had more to give.

"My plan was to go another year or two. I have a grandson coming into Mountain View next year as a basketball player. I just wanted to get him started. I got a granddaughter who is a junior cheerleader. I wanted to see her,” said Ernst.

"It's really sad to see him go. He’s done a great job over the last 38 years. It's been an amazing season," said one fan.

Many in the community came out Tuesday to show their support.

"Everybody knows about what a great basketball coach he is. But that does not compare to the great person he is,” said former basketball coach Justin Hastings.

"When you're kind of down and things aren't going your way you'd like them to, and you see that kind of support, it sure is uplifting,” added Ernst.

ABC15 reached out to the principal of Mountain View High School for comment. We did not hear back.

As for Coach Ernst, he said he has given every ounce of himself to the school over the years. The team gave theirs during the game Tuesday night but came up short losing 63 to 66.