Marcus Northcutt stepped down as Watsonville High's athletic director after spending the past seven years with the school. He served as interim football head coach in 2023 and was the boys' basketball coach for six seasons. (Raul Ebio - The Pajaronian file photo)

Marcus Northcutt has stepped down as Watsonville High’s athletic director after seven years with the school, he told The Pajaronian on Thursday.    

Northcutt, 52, will take on the same duties at North Salinas High starting in July. He will replace longtime athletic director Jean Ashen, who spent 33 years with the school. 

Northcutt’s contract with Pajaro Valley Unified School District is set to expire June 30, and expects to officially start at North Salinas on July 1.

Watsonville High Principal Joe Gregorio said the application process for a new athletic director will begin sometime next week. In terms of how soon someone will replace Northcutt, that all depends on the applicants.

“We want to make sure that we do this properly, take our time and we do our due diligence,” Gregorio said.

Northcutt was hired to lead the athletic department at Watsonville in 2016 and became the interim head coach for the boys’ basketball team just one year later. He spent six seasons at the helm before stepping down in March 2023.

During that time, he went through five years of dialysis and received a kidney transplant at the end of October 2022, while contemplating retirement.

Most of his colleagues/friends came to his aide by bringing him meals and made sure he still had a place when Northcutt returned.  

“It’s one of those bittersweet decisions,” said Northcutt on his choice to leave Watsonville. “The people I work with at Watsonville are amazing, the coaching staff and the teachers. We’re like friends, I don’t even consider ourselves colleagues.

“It’s hard. I have a real sense of loyalty, and so I feel like I’m betraying people in that sense. Bottom line, I kind of gotta do what’s best for me and my family.” 

Northcutt felt a jolt of rejuvenation prior to coaching the 2022-23 season and returned to the sidelines. He was asked to be the interim football head coach in 2023 after a last-minute coaching change involving Gregorio.

“He has brought a huge amount of professionalism, school spirit, there’s a lot of different aspects that he’s brought to Watsonville,” Gregorio said. 

Northcutt, a Santa Cruz High alumnus, coached varsity basketball at San Lorenzo Valley High from 2007-2015, and was also athletic director for 10 years. He led both the boys’ and girls’ teams to the Central Coast Section playoffs, including the final three seasons with the boys’ program. 

Prior to that, he coached the Scotts Valley High boys’ basketball team from 2004-2007 and spent time as a football coach at Cabrillo College from 1999-2003. 

Northcutt’s resume runs even deeper. His first coaching gig was at his alma mater as the freshman football coach from 1991-92 before heading off to Southern California to coach football at El Monte (1993-95) and South Pasadena (1995-1999) high schools.

“[Northcutt’s] got a great personality, and the kids really gravitated towards him,” Gregorio said. “They’re always kind of circling around him because he is somebody that you can trust and believe in.” 

Northcutt was impressed with how much Salinas Union High School District takes care of athletics programs with small details such as transportation and upgrades to facilities.

“Salinas seems to have the ability to support athletics at a greater extent without the responsibility being solely on the athletic director,” he said.

Northcutt said he has some massive shoes to fill with the departure of Ashen at North Salinas, yet he’s up for the new challenge.

“Those kinds of things I think keep us young a little bit, keep us working to improve every moment,” he said.

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  1. I feel bad for Salinas High, they must be desperate for any warm body.

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