Espanola Valley High School boys basketball coach Gabriel Martinez talks to his players June 22 during a team camp at Northern New Mexico College. Martinez is starting his first seasonas a head coach at Espanola Valley.
By George Morse
Gabe Martinez Takes Over at Espanola Valley High School
New Espanola Valley High School boys basketball coach Gabriel Martinez has found a second home in Espanola. Growing up in Albuquerque and playing basketball for Albuquerque High School and Rio Grande High School, Martinez made the decision a year later to attend Northern New Mexico College in Espanola to play basketball for Northern men’s basketball coach and athletic director Ryan Cordova
”Coach Cordova is a good man on and off the court,” Martinez said. “It seemed like a great option.”
It turned out to be a great fit for Martinez and Northern.
“Those four years were just awesome,” Martinez said. “We started out as a young group and went through our growing pains. The last two years were really good years. It was a true blessing.”
During his final two years at Northern, Martinez was named Conference Player of the Year and the Eagles were Conference champions. He finished as Northern’s all-time leading scorer and earned All-America honors. He graduated from Northern with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration/Management.
Martinez was an assistant coach at Sandia High School in Albuquerque for the next two years (2015-2017) before returning to Northern as an assistant athletic director and associate men’s basketball coach under Coach Cordova. He applied for the boys head coaching job at Espanola Valley High School in 2019 and on May 13 was chosen as the new boys basketball coach from 11 initial applicants.
Since then, Martinez has gotten to know his players in a series of team camps, the latest of which was June 21-23 at Northern.
“It’s been a little over a month,” Martinez said. “They are buying in to what it is I want. It’s a young team. I like what I see. They’re respectful of me and each other. They work hard. I want to build a positive basketball culture. I’m excited to see the growth.”
Espanola is known across the state for its basketball team and the support it receives from the community. In his time spent as a player and coach for Northern, Martinez has come to appreciate that supportive culture.
“Espanola is a very welcoming place,” he said. “The culture for sports, it’s awesome to see. People will go out of their way to help you. It has become my home.”
To Martinez, basketball is more than a game.
“The game has opened a lot of doors for me,” he said. “It’ something I want to do as long as that career will take me. I have seen the impact it has on young people who need positive things to do. It teaches you a lot. How to become a leader and work hard to be a success in life. I I want to not just coach basketball, but also coach the game of life to my players. When they leave I want them to look back and say ‘Coach , you taught me to be a good person and to work hard for what you want,’”
During the recent team camp, Martinez was vocal and energetic on the sidelines. His team in many cases followed his lead, encouraging their teammates from the bench.
“It’s important to support one another,” Martinez said. “As a coach, I want what’s best for all the players, be they incoming eighth-graders or seniors playing their final games. You can have all the talent, but if you’re not coachable and a good teammate, you can hurt the program. As a coach you have to make the decisions about who will bring success to the program. Being truthful as a coach is the best thing you can do. When someone tells the truth you know the answer you’re going to get will be an honest one.”
Being the boys basketball coach at Espanola Valley High School makes you one of the most-recognized members of the community. Espanola’s success on the court puts pressure on the coach to win games. This will be Martinez’s first year as a head coach and he’s doing it at one of the best-known programs in the state.
“To be a good basketball coach, you have to have confidence in who you are and what you do,” Martinez said. “Doing the best job I can do and putting everything I have into it. You’ll never regret giving it everything you have. I’m enjoying it way more than any pressure there might be.”
Coach Martinez has sophomore Malaki Jones check into the game. Coach Martinez lets the official know what he thinks the call should be.
Coach Martinez sends in a fresh group of players and gives instructions to his team on the court.
Espanola's Ollie Fell and his teammates cheer for their team from the bench during the team camp at Northern New Mexico College.