Chandler coaching legend John Carlson succumbs at 70 - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler coaching legend John Carlson succumbs at 70

May 24th, 2018 development
Chandler coaching legend John Carlson succumbs at 70

By Brian Benesch, Sports Editor


The Chandler sports scene lost a legend on May 12 with the passing of John Carlson, who died after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 70.

Mr. Carlson’s career with Chandler High School spanned decades and resulted in numerous accolades.

Beginning in the 1970s, he served as the head coach of both the track and wrestling teams, winning two state titles in wrestling. He was inducted into the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995.

The Mesa High School graduate notably served as Chandler Unified School District athletic director later on in his school tenure. The Arizona Interscholastic Association gave Mr. Carlson the prestigious “Trailblazer Award” in 2002.

Ten years removed from that honor, the governing board named Carlson Elementary in his and wife Carol’s honor. Carol worked for many years as a beloved educator in the district as well.

Leo Schlueter, principal of Carlson Elementary, said Mr. Carlson’s spirit at the school will be missed dearly.

“John was a towering presence on our campus with a humble attitude,” he said. “He was never beyond helping out in any way, whether it was putting together packets for kindergarten or being our door greeter as students and parents entered for events.”

Schlueter added, “He was a popular face as parents and students so enjoyed engaging with him, knowing his namesake was the school they attended.”

But the Carlsons’ impact was felt far beyond the school systems. A year ago, the former coach’s leg was amputated as he battled cancer. And the community that he was such a crucial part of quickly rallied around him.

Money was raised on Mr. Carlson’s behalf to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van. The van enabled him to attend many Chandler athletic events as recently as the last few months.

“He was here often working at our football games, track meets and wrestling matches,” Chandler High Prinicipal Larry Rother said.

Although Rother did not officially work with Mr. Carlson as an administrator, he holds the late legend in high regard.

“As a teacher, coach and mentor to so many students over the years, John Carlson has left a legacy at Chandler High School,” he said. “As I meet with alumni of Chandler High and they reflect on their experiences here, Coach Carlson’s name always seems to come up as one of those people who truly made Chandler High a special place.”

CUSD spokesman Terry Locke issued a statement to school administrators on Sunday, saying: “I am saddened to send this to all of you on Mother’s Day morning, but want you to know that John Carlson passed away unexpectedly yesterday. He was a living legend.”

Mr. Carlson may be gone, but his legacy will live on forever within the CUSD.

“On a personal note, he will be missed greatly as a friend and mentor of mine,” Schlueter said. “John Carlson truly defined what it meant to be selfless in the service and support of others.”

Mr. Carlson is survived by his wife Carol, son Chris and daughter-in-law Gina.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete at press time.