ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If I’m covering a prep game with 87 free throws, I’d want to leave early, too.
If I did, however, I guarantee it would be quite some time – if ever – before my bosses allowed me to cover another one.
Eldorado boys basketball coach Roy Sanchez left his team’s 68-61 loss to Sandia in Saturday’s District 2-5A title game early – although not by his own accord.
Now – unless he wins an appeal – he’s not allowed to see his team play its next two games.
And that’s a major ordeal, since at least one – and maybe both – will be in this week’s New Mexico Boys State Basketball Championships.
The seventh-seeded Eagles play host to 10th-seeded Las Cruces in Saturday’s first round of the 16-team Class 5A state tournament. Sanchez, in his 21st year as Eagles coach, cannot be in the gym.
If Eldorado beats Cruces, it’s on to the Pit for the quarterfinals the following week. By New Mexico Activities Association rule, Sanchez would also be suspended for that game.
A coach being suspended for the first two games of the state tournament?
Maybe it’s happened before. But that’s a new one in my book.
And hey, I covered Lenny Roybal for years.
(Slow down folks, I had a great rapport with Lenny during my Northern New Mexico days).
Turns out, it is indeed rare. Maybe unprecedented. More on that later.
OK, so what the heck did Sanchez do?
T for two
On Saturday, Eldorado and Sandia had a testy affair that featured a combined 87 foul shots in the District 2-5A title game at Sandia. Near the end of the third quarter, there was a loose ball, a scramble and a scuffle, according to both Sandia athletic director Tom Knauber and reporter Tristen Critchfield, who covered the game for the Journal.
“In my opinion, (the Matadors Adam Cumber) pushed down one of our kids and nothing was called,” said Sanchez, brother of New Mexico women’s hoops coach Yvonne Sanchez. “A police officer actually had to go on the court and break up the scuffle. Once it was broken up, I asked the referee to get a hold of the situation. I got a ‘T’ for that.”
Sanchez said Cumber also received a technical, but not until the police officer went on the floor.
“Then other things happened,” he says. “but that was the initial deal.”
The “other things” became major things.
With major ramifications.
If a coach picks up two technicals in a game, he/she is automatically ejected – and suspended from the team’s next game.
If a coach is ejected a second time in the same season, the punishment is suspension for the team’s next two games.
Last month, Sanchez was slapped with two Ts and ejected during the Eagles’ 55-41 win against Manzano. He was then suspended for Eldorado’s following game, a 75-72 win against La Cueva.
Thus, when Sanchez was given his technical in the third quarter of Saturday’s game, there was no margin for error. Another ‘T,’ and the Eagles would be without their head coach for their first two games of state (provided they win the first).
Choir boy time, right?
“I’m not going to say what happened,” Sanchez said of being slapped with a second technical before play resumed. “… I asked the referee, ‘What’s that for?’ He said ‘You need to leave.’
“I didn’t think I did anything wrong the last time (against Manzano) or this time.”
What Sanchez – a great coach and really likeable guy – allegedly did this time, is actually pretty humorous.
Unless you were a ref.
Because Eldorado won the district tournament last year, it was required to bring the traveling trophy to Saturday’s game. Critchfield says Sanchez – after getting his initial T – scooped up the trophy by the Eagles bench, walked over to the official scorer’s table, and placed it down on the side nearest to the Matadors’ bench.
Critchfield says everyone in the gym realized the gesture meant, “Take it, the refs are giving it to you anyway.”
I asked Sanchez if the technical had something to do with the trophy.
“That’s what I heard,” he said. “I’ll talk to Sally and see what happens.”
Sally is NMAA executive director Sally Marquez, who says Sanchez has appealed the ruling.
“All ejections can be appealed, be it a student or a coach,” Marquez said. “We look to see if there is a misapplication of rule. That’s how an ejection can be overturned.”
Eldorado athletic director Mike Huston, who is also the girls basketball head coach and had a game that night at EHS, said Marquez told him she would have a decision on the appeal today.
If Sanchez loses the appeal, assistant Rick Sleeter – a former head coach at Rio Rancho High and St. Pius – will take over on Saturday.
Sanchez says he regrets the situation, but he’s confident in Sleeter.
“We’re going to prepare hard during the week, and he’ll be fine,” Sanchez said. ” … I just think we’re going to play hard, whether I was there or not. They’re good kids.”
And if he’s not there – especially if it’s for two games – it very well could be a first. NMAA officials couldn’t remember it happening before.
But one thing the NMAA is sure of, ejections – period – are uncommon.
Marquez said there are 140 boys and 140 girls varsity teams in the state. Each plays about 25 or 26 games. That’s about 7,200 games this season.
Only twice, she says, coaches were ejected from girls games.
Boys? As you might guess, there have been more.
Barely. The tie was broken on Saturday.
Marquez reports only three times has a boys coach been ejected this season in all of New Mexico. Sanchez has two.