ARTESIA — For 30 years, Artesia Public Schools Director Cooper Henderson has been the guiding force behind the district’s athletic department. On April 28, he passed the torch to one of his own.
Current Yucca Elementary School Principal Brian Taylor was announced as the new APS director of athletics by Superintendent Thad Phipps during a conference at the Administration Building. Taylor, a former Bulldog athlete and a 20-plus-year employee of the APS, will take the helm this summer following Henderson’s retirement.
“I feel blessed with the opportunity to apply my passion for athletics, leadership and relationships and to serve the district and the community as the athletic director,” Taylor said, “and I just appreciate that and thank you all for that opportunity.”
Taylor graduated in 1989 from Artesia High School (AHS), where he competed for the Bulldog basketball and baseball teams. He earned his degree from Eastern New Mexico University before returning to the APS. He has since served the district as a teacher and coach at AHS, Park Junior High School and Zia Intermediate School, as well as an assistant principal at Zia and principal of Yucca.
“We’re excited about the new era in Artesia athletics following Coach Cooper Henderson, who certainly blessed us with 30 years of leadership,’ Phipps said. “He’s going to be tough to follow, but I have great confidence that Brian Taylor is going to be that person to continue to lead us and mentor our coaches, who are going to be mentoring our children.
“I’m excited about the future of Artesia athletics.”
Henderson — who arrived at AHS from Ruidoso in 1989 as head football coach, compiling 14 state championships prior to his retirement from that position in 2016 — took on the additional role of athletic director in 1993. He succeeded former APS superintendent and head football coach Mike Phipps, who spent six years as AD.
“I’m excited about the future of the Bulldog athletic program,” Henderson said. “Brian Taylor is a positive leader with integrity, and he has a great group of coaches that will continue to work together to carry on the Bulldog traditions of excellence.”
Taylor was joined for the announcement by wife Jennifer and daughter Brylan. Sons Trent and Nathan are both former quarterbacks for the Bulldog football team, the former having graduated from Texas Tech University in December 2022 and the latter currently playing baseball for Midland College.
“I want to continue what has been done, because I think Coach Henderson did a great job and is a great mentor.” Taylor said. “But I’m excited about working with the coaches, getting our vision and our mission in line, and just continuing our great athletic programs, where we’re trying to prepare kids for life and not just sports.”