Bad news travels fast.

Former Cibola High School boys basketball coach and athletic director, and later the Eagle Ridge Middle School athletic coordinator, Phil Schroer passed away unexpectedly Tuesday afternoon.

It caught the local sports community by surprise.

Larry Chavez, former RRPS athletics director, said he got the bad news Tuesday evening. Chavez met Schroer while he was visiting relatives in Las Vegas, N.M., and Schroer was coaching at Robertson High School.

“What a good person. It’s big loss for the family, for the athletic family – for the community of RR. He was just such a good guy.”

“It’s really sad. When I got the news, I was shocked,” he said. “He was walking a lot. He had lost some weight. It’s not like he wasn’t taking care of himself.”

“I did not sleep good and I’m not all there,” Rio Rancho Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics Bruce Carver said Wednesday morning, having what he said had been 15-20 text messages the day before. “I had coffee with Phil Friday. He looked good and he sounded good. He started feeling really bad Tuesday about 2 o’clock. His wife Ronnie called an ambulance and they couldn’t revive him.

“He’s not a smoker, not a drinker,” Carver added. “I’m still in shock.”

In 2008, Schroer, who would have turned 76 Saturday, was inducted into the New Mexico Highlands University Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2018, he was inducted into the Cibola High School Athletic Hall of Fame and last December, he was inducted into the Seymour (Ind.) High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

In addition, NMHU’s national championship baseball team will be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame this year.

Following his illustrious days at SHS, where he graduated in 1964, Schroer accepted a scholarship to play baseball at NMHU, where he was a part of the Cowboys team that won the NAIA national championship in 1967.

Then, it was on to coaching prep basketball, first at Robertson High School in Las Vegas, N.M., and then at Cibola High, where he was 55-87 in six seasons (1986-92), where he later became athletic director.

Carver said his first interaction with Schroer was on the hardwood: “I coached against Phil when I was at Raton and he was at Robertson – little did I know we would become great friends. (Later), I went to Texas and he went to Cibola.”

Flash forward a few decades from the first interaction of Carver and Schroer, with Carver then the A.D. for RRPS.

“We were lucky to hire him at Eagle Ridge as our athletic coordinator for seven years,” Carver said. “He loves athletics and has so much knowledge and passion for sports in general. Most important, he cares about kids and making a difference.”

At Cibola, Phil was proud to coach his son Shonn, now the athletic director and boys basketball coach at West Mesa High School.

Also, as the A.D. for the Cougars, Schroer hired two current coaches now in RRPS, Kenny Henry at Cleveland High and Lori Mabrey at Rio Rancho High.

“I am so incredibly sad to hear about Mr. Schroer’s passing,” Henry said. “Mr. Schroer was a truly wonderful person. I will be forever grateful to Mr. Schroer.  He hired me as the head cross country coach at Cibola High School in the fall of 2003, (taking) a huge chance on me as I was 23 years old, had just earned my degree a month earlier and had absolutely zero coaching experience.

“My gratitude for Mr. Schroer extends far beyond him giving me my first coaching opportunity.  Mr. Schroer was a huge mentor to me early on at Cibola and he was such a positive person to work for,” he said. “Mr. Schroer and his wife (Veronica) share the same anniversary as me and my wife; every year on December 27th, I knew Mr. Schroer would be calling or texting to wish us a happy anniversary.

“The thing I respected the most about him was the love and pride he had in his family,” Henry said. “You could have one conversation with Mr. Schroer and have no question on how much his wife, kids and grandkids meant to him. My heart definitely goes out to his family.”

“I am still in shock,” Mabrey said. “I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Phil and Ronnie two weeks ago.

“Phil hired me 20 years ago and he became my one of my mentors — I adore him and I am unbelievably saddened,” she continued. “I went to Eastern with his son Shonn and his wife Michelle, and I know the entire family.  “One thing people may not know about Phil is that he was an eloquent writer; he wrote a sports page every week highlighting the kids.  He always wrote his coaches special notes;  I have kept several and will treasure them forever.  …  I will miss him terribly and I considered him a very  good friend.  His family has my deepest condolences.”
To Rio Ranchoan Mario “X Man” Martinez: “He was a beloved friend for over 40 years, a devoted husband and father, my fellow Meadowlark Senior Center ‘meatloaf aficionado’ since 2013, a no-nonsense True Blue anti-Trumper like myself. (He was) my coaching and athletic directing (Pecos High) mentor. … In the words of Tina Turner, Phil Schroer was ‘Simply the Best!’”

Carver said Schroer also served as a mentor to the current middle school athletic coordinators in the city.

“Those middle school guys connected with Phil – he took them under his wing,” Carver said.

Now, there’ll be no family adventure to Costa Rica, which Carver said had been in the works, nor morning coffee chats at McDonald’s.

“We always went to McDonald’s, because Starbucks was too expensive,” he joked.

Carver said sometime this fall, now that cross country participation has been offered at the RRPS middle schools, the season-ending championship meet will honor Schroer.

“Truth be known, Phil planted the idea in my head — to give kids not doing other sports something to do – it’s low cost and has heavy impact,” Carver added. “I was gonna surprise him. I hadn’t told him anything about it, we’d have a little ceremony before the meet, present him with a plaque.”

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ronnie Schroer; son Shonn Schroer and his wife, Michelle; Mandee Schroer and her partner, Henry Schwartz; Justin Schroer and his wife, Jen; Nick Schroer; and four grandchildren, Zack, Camren, Ryker and Aviva Schroer.

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