When Tony Lindsay Sr. reflects on the last half-decade of his life, he thinks of a long slog and a righteous cause.
In 2017, after many years of waiting for the chance, he finally landed the job as head coach for the Warriors high school football team. They once represented Montbello High School, but became a regional program after Denver Public Schools voted to close MHS in 2010.
The team’s facilities began to break down as time passed. When Lindsay arrived, he began a campaign to refocus the district’s attention on his student athletes. What began as a fight for working showers and a playable field shifted into broader advocacy for equity in Denver’s far-northeast neighborhoods, whose residents have long felt neglected by those in power. Lindsay’s son, Gabe, and his offensive line coach, Brandon Pryor, became seminal figures in a push to reopen Montbello High; their advocacy paid off and, in February of this year, the district voted to reinstate the school.
While the Warriors will once again represent Montbello High School, Lindsay will not. On Friday, he learned administrators of the new school did not rehire him to continue with the program he’s rebuilt over the last several years.
“We put in a whole lot of work to get this school open and moving, and we did it, and then they get rid of us,” Lindsay told us. “Where’s the loyalty in this?”
Denver Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment on the decision, though we’ll update this story if they do.
Since the team’s founding in the 1980s, Lindsay has been the only Warriors coach that brought the team to a state final and won. He spent much of the last season investing time in a large crop of freshmen players, who he saw as the future of the program and a powerhouse in the making. While Lindsay said he is sad he won’t be able to see them through the course, he said he’s not bitter about it.
“That’s their right,” he said of Montbello High administrators. “My thing has always been, when one door closes, another door opens.”
Pryor, who has long been a vocal critic of DPS, was less careful with his assessment.
“It’s a complete slap in the face. It undermines everything we built in the last five years,” he said. “We’ve done a lot on our free time and on our dime, and to snatch the rug from under the community’s feet is unacceptable.”
Pryor told us that his players and their families didn’t learn about the decision until he posted about it on social media. Lindsay said he’s been getting panicked calls from his students since Friday.
Pryor also said he suspects interpersonal politics and “nepotism” played into the decision, adding he’s worried Montbello High School’s return won’t reunify a shattered student body in the way he imagined when he became an activist.
Lindsay said the job went instead to Stanley Richardson, who coached the Warriors before he arrived and will leave Mullen High School to return to the team.