Greg Luna, athletic director at South Pasadena High School (SPHS) for the past five years, has been removed from his position.
Luna on Wednesday of last week confirmed his removal as athletic director (AD) at the High School. He was notified of the change last October and initially appealed the school’s decision because it’s considered a teaching assignment, he said. But he soon realized that the school and district administration was committed to go in a different direction, so he acquiesced.
“During the past five years it’s been my pleasure to have served as the Athletic Director at SPHS,” Luna said in an email that he sent to all the coaches at the High School as well as colleagues. Luna furnished a copy of the email for The Review.
“I’ve been fortunate to work alongside many wonderful coaches and have witnessed impressive accomplishments by Tiger student-athletes,” the email reads. “I firmly believe in the rich value that competitive athletics adds to the school culture and especially to individual students.”
Luna will remain as the AD until the last day of the school year, and then return to his full-time job as a high school history teacher, he said.
“Unfortunately, I will not be returning as AD the next school year,” he said in the email. “The SPHS Administration informed me that they will be moving in a different direction at the end of this school year. Although I’m disappointed with the decision, I respect the need for the SPHS Administration to work with an AD that will execute their vision of an athletic program. Moving forward, please be assured that I will continue to carry out my duties with the same energy and proficiency until the end of my assignment. I will continue to support your coaching, instruction, and mentorship of SPHS student-athletes.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoff Yantz said they want to build on the athletic program Luna has built.
“We greatly appreciate Mr. Luna’s contributions to the SPHS athletic program,” Yantz said in an email to The Review. “He has provided a solid foundation for the next athletic director to take the program to the next level.” SPHS Principal Janet Anderson was quoted in the school newspaper, The Tiger, which reported the story first, that the school wants to build on the “great programs we already have in athletics.”
Meanwhile, Luna said the administration was clear in its desire to move in a new direction, and unclear as to what that direction will be.
“The administration just wanted to go in a different direction,” Luna said in a telephone interview with The Review. “We have some great coaches and some terrific athletes. In fact, we’ve stole some coaches from other programs. I am proud of our coaches and our student-athletes. Very proud.”
Luna also acknowledged that it was unclear to him as to the exact change in direction the administration sought.
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” he said later during an hour-long interview in his office at the High School. “It’s hard to clarify.”
He did say that when he accepted the position five years ago, he was instructed to create a parent-advisory ad-hoc group for the sports programs at the High School. He said that was not a good idea because there should be boundaries between the sports programs at the High School and parental input. Besides, he said, parents already have a way to communicate with the Athletic Director and that’s through the strong booster program and the PTA.
“I told them why I didn’t think it was a good idea,” Luna said. “And I was not redirected to implement the advisory group.” It’s anticipated that the new AD’s first step will be to create such a group.
Luna also said there is a conflict inherent in the goals set forth from the top administration. Those goals are to give every student the opportunity to play sports regardless of skill-set and simultaneously produce winning sports programs.
“Those two things compete against each other,” he said. “As I said, I think we have great coaches and winning programs. Not the marquis programs, but we are doing the best we can do there and I believe we are going to do better.”
One of the highlights of Luna’s tenure has been the So Pas track & field program with its 10-straight championships. Furthermore, the girls and boys soccer programs have been highly successful along with boys’ water polo and girls tennis. Badminton in its first year of competing took the championship last year. Cross country is always deep into CIF postseason competition, even getting to the state level. Golf is no slouch either.
In fact, Luna estimates that 70 percent of the sports programs at So Pas High School produce winning teams and players.
But the basketball, football and baseball programs have struggled, Luna acknowledged. Baseball has not won a league game since 2017, while football lost most games by large margins this past season and boys basketball has been a struggle.
Girls varsity soccer coach Tory Lathrop said she was surprised of Luna’s removal and hoped the district would consider a female candidate for the AD job. She also said Luna gave her the opportunity to coach the girls soccer program, which Lathrop has turned around into a perennial playoff contender.
“I was surprised to hear he will not be returning to the AD position next year,” Lathrop said in an email to The Review. “I am grateful he gave me an opportunity to join the coaching staff at the High School and I’m glad to hear he will remain on campus as a teacher. I wish the hiring committee the best of luck on their candidate search. I hope they can bring in an AD who will continue to support the coaching staff with great leadership while helping our student athletes excel in their sport. I would love to see them consider female candidates for this position.”
An internal job posting was sent out to SPUSD faculty Wednesday that will launch the search for Luna’s replacement. However, Luna said five years ago he was the only applicant that applied.
“They may have to go outside the district,” he said. “In the end, we want what’s best for the kids. We all do.”