EVHS State Champ Coach, Richard Martinez Rehired

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Coach Martinez May Hit Trey Yet, Private Agreement Reached

Coach Richard Martinez, shown here, recognizing a fan during the "Hero's Parade" held on Sunday, March 13, 2016 in Espanola, after Martinez coached the  EVHS Sundevils basketball team to its second title in five years. Ten days after the historic title win, Martinez was placed on administrative leave by then interim Superintendent, Bobbie Gutierrez. Photo by Robert A. Naranjo/valleydailypost.com 

EVHS State Champ Coach, Richard Martinez Rehired: Coach Survives Another Close One

By Robert A. Naranjo

Espanola Valley School Board President Pablo Lujan has confirmed to the Valley Daily Post that Richard Martinez, former coach for the Espanola Sundevils will be hired back and coach the EVHS varsity basketball team again in the 2016-17 school year.

Late Wednesday, July 19, the Espanola Valley Public Schools board met in a closed executive session to deliberate the issue of the abruptly terminated head basketball coach, and ultimately, a decision was made according to Martinez’s attorney, will reinstate Martinez as both a coach and teacher.

The “full court press” on the coach began when former Espanola Schools Superintendent, Bobbie Gutierrez, placed Richard Martinez on administrative leave on March 22, 2016, just ten days after his Sundevils vanquished the Capital Jaguars in the 2016 NMAA Class 5A title game. Then on April 6, following what the school district (Superintendent) said was an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct. This investigation included, a former EVHS counselor told the Board, basketball players were being interviewed in that internal investigation without consent of their parents.  Gutierrez fired the coach, completing the clear intention of dismissal of the successful coach. A few hours later, she resigned.     

The basis for Martinez’s termination was not clear to the public, with Martinez himself reporting that it was in relation to him leading the team in prayer before a game. Then “praying” became something “more serious” after public pushback on the prayer issue. The more serious reasons were subsequently given as a justification for investigating the coach, according to Gutierrez, and echoed by the State Public Education Department (PED). By the time the PED released what it had found, praying wasn’t in the findings, but “verbal abuse” made it, “emotional abuse” did too, “violating the privacy” of one of his players by saying on a radio sports program that a particular player may not suit up for a game, and another “finding” that involved sales of cookie dough as a fundraiser with accounting issues with the cookie dough money, accusing coach Martinez of not turning in part or all of it. 

Coach Richard Martinez, shown here, pointing out that Capital's Eric Coca (#22 on left), their top player, should be closely watched by the referees as Coca is getting too close to the baseline or maybe stepping on it. Martinez put EVHS's best-ever athlete, Marcos "Zeus" Flores, on Coca and effectively limited his scoring output. Coca was recruited recently to play for the Northern NM College Eagles. Note the crowd in the Pit, in the neighborhood of 12-13,000 thousand fans, although Capital High had a decent crowd in the Pit,the lion's share were for the Sundevils. Photo by Robert A. Naranjo/valleydailypost.com

Coach Richard Martinez has coached the EVHS Sundevils to two state basketball championships in five years, in 2011 and 2016, although the former was in Class 4A and this year was in 5A, the state’s second-largest classification. He has district titles and state tournament appearances ”para tirar pa’ arriba” (colloquialism meaning having extra), and the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) clearly loves the revenue that the Sundevils bring to “The Pit” on Bob King Court, WisePies Arena, in Albuquerque. Every time (coach) Martinez gets the Sundevils there, the Pit fills up with arguably the best fans in the state. And, in the Pit there are an estimated 12-13,000 fans for every EVHS State Tournament game, roaring for the Sundevils.

And, amazingly, Richard Martinez is only one state basketball championship away from tying for seventh (7) all-time state championships won by a basketball coach in New Mexico, according to NMAA records. With the title he won in Mora early in his coaching career, he now has three. One more and he joins some basketball  coaching legends.