Thiebaud preparing to retire after building Cy Ridge football program from scratch
Heading into the 2019-20 high school year, the Cypress Ridge football program will have to tackle an issue its never faced before.
When Cy Ridge head football coach and athletic coordinator Gary Thiebaud was still in the early years of his coaching career, he was asked by a co-worker who was fixing to retire, when he was going to retire. Thiebaud said he’d always thought he’d go until about the age of 65 and then he’ll see, because coaching is one of his passions and he really enjoys what he does.
Thiebaud started coaching at Cy Ridge in 2002—the campus’ inaugural school year.
On December 12, 2018, Thiebaud turned 65 and after a lot of discussion with his wife over the Christmas break, they made a decision.
“It’s been 17 years, and I feel really good about where we are; got a good group coming back, so I just felt like it was time,” Thiebaud said. “We’re ready to move on to something else.”
Thiebaud is now getting ready to step down from his duties after announcing in early January to players and staff that he will officially retire at the end of the 2018-19 contract year.
“CFISD has really been good to me,” Thiebaud said. “I’ve really enjoyed working here. I’ve been in this district for 25 years out of my 42. It’s a really good district. It gave me a lot of opportunities. It’s been a true blessing for me to be able to work in this district.”
With Thiebaud’s retirement, Cypress Ranch head football coach Gene Johnson will now be the only CFISD coach that has coached at a district campus for the entirety of the school’s existance.
Thiebaud’s career in education spanned 42 years, the last 17 at Cy Ridge. He will leave the program with 91 career wins, fifth all-time in CFISD history. In total, the Rams won two district titles and went to the playoffs eight times (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013), including the regional finals in 2016.
“I appreciate all the help (Thiebaud) has given me professionally and personally,” Cy Ridge running backs coach Wes Nichols said via Twitter. “I’ve been with him 14 years and will truly miss him. I wish him the best of luck on his next endeavor.”
In Thiebaud’s last season in 2018, the Rams missed the postseason via a tiebreaker with Cy Creek after finishing with an overall record of 7-3 and district record of 5-3. The Cougars had beaten the Rams 37-7 during the regular season, helping them clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in District 17-6A with a district record of 5-3.
“If anybody would have told me you can be 7-3 and not make the playoffs, I would have called them a liar,” Thiebaud said. “But we did that, we went 7-3 and didn’t get in.”
In 2017, the Rams went 1-8 with a lot of young players. The coaching staff felt like they were going to be pretty good this year.
“We were,” Thiebaud said. “we ended up with an injury that really set us back.”
The Rams were unbeaten heading into the big district game against Jersey Village in week four when quarterback Noah Smith got injured during the second quarter. Smith didn’t return until the end of the season. However, the program has 15 starters coming back and feels good about where it stands and where it’s headed.
Among Thiebaud’s most notable achievements were winning the district championship in 2004, winning the district title again three years later, being selected to the Greater Houston Coaches Hall of Honor in 2013 and making it to the regional finals for the time in school history in 2016, where he was also a Touchdown Club of Houston Coach of the Year finalist.
The 2004 football team, first varsity team in school history, not only got into the playoffs but also won a share of the district championship.
“Nobody in the history of CFISD has ever done that before or since,” Thiebaud said. “And that was really special, that was the group that started off as ninth and tenth graders.”
The 2007 and 2008 teams, led by Russell Shepard, each made a run to the third round of the playoffs. Shepard currently plays for the New York Giants.
“Had some great talent on those teams; Shepard at quarterback was just awesome,” Thiebaud said.
The 2016 class went four rounds deep in the postseason, regional championship, which is the farthest they’ve ever been.
“That was a special group, that locker room in the regional semifinals at NRG Stadium when we won that game, just was awesome,” Thiebaud said. “A lot of really strong memories in that regard in football.”
Chance of a lifetime
Every coach has the goal of winning the state championship. In Thiebaud’s opinion, the best chance the Rams had at state was during the first five years.
“I felt like back in 2007 and 2008 we should have played for it and we didn’t get it done,” Thiebaud said. “That’s a thing I felt like we missed on.”
Both those playoff games were lost on the last play of the game. One of them was a 50-yard field goal and the other was a hail marry pass with six seconds to go in the game.
“I felt like one of those teams we should have played for it,” Thiebaud said. “Particularly the ’08 team, I think that was our best shot.”
Before accepting the position at Cy Ridge, Thiebaud had additional chances to go to other districts, but was proud of CFISD and is glad he waited for the right opening.
Back when the school was preparing to open its doors for the first time, Thiebaud was named the school’s first football head coach after working under Dennis Demel at Langham Creek.
When Cladio Garcia, the first principal at Cy Ridge, hired Thiebaud a year before the school opened, they immediately went to work on hiring and building the programs.
“It was really special, I’ve never opened a school before,” Thiebaud said. “Just an unbelievable experience to start all those programs, hire the staffs and do all those things. Then 17 years later you look where we are, the things that have been accomplished, not just in football but all sports, it’s really been enjoyable.”
Thiebaud is a Pleasantville, N. Y., high school graduate and graduated from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. In 1976, he moved to Texas where he coached at Corsicana and Southern Methodist University before taking a position at Langham Creek, where he was the defensive coordinator for eight years. The Lobos made the postseason seven consecutive seasons while he was there.
“I had the honor and privilege of playing high school with Gary Thiebaud many years ago,” Gary Paulus said via twitter. “As our co-captain he led us to an undefeated season as a two-way player. He was a great player, teammate, role model and friend. Thanks for the memories, wishing you all the best. Happy retirement.”
As for what’s next for Thiebaud, it’s to be determined. Thiebaud and his wife, Jan, have five children, Brian, Kurt, Kelly, Dusty and Clint.
“I really don’t know, I’m active, I’m not a guy that’s going to sit at the house, so I’m trying to figure that out,” Thiebaud said. “I’m going to stay on through the school year at the athletic department or help up front and then I’ve got some time to figure it out.
“Definitely working on that right now. I’m not real sure where I’m heading, but as my oldest sons says, ‘it’s going to be exciting to see this new journey.’”