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Ex-Lobo women’s head coach Sanchez hired as Michigan assistant

Yvonne Sanchez is shown in game action during the 2015-16 UNM Lobos women’s basketball season. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal.)

Yvonne Sanchez’s Big Blue adventure has begun.

Sanchez, the former University of New Mexico women’s basketball coach whose Land of Enchantment roots run deep, was officially hired and started work as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan on Monday.

Sanchez, 50, will serve as an assistant to sixth-year coach Kim Barnes Arico. Sanchez said she recently accepted the position and arrived in Ann Arbor on Sunday night.

“Everything fell together perfectly,” Sanchez said, “and quickly. I didn’t even know Michigan had an opening, but I’ve known Kim for quite a while. She gave me a call and said, ‘What do you think?’ It wasn’t anything I was looking for but it’s a great opportunity. I’m excited.”

Job one at Michigan?

“Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting,” she said. “Fortunately, I still have a lot of contacts, and this is a pretty easy place to recruit to.”

Sanchez spent the past two years working at her alma mater, Eldorado High School, as an educational assistant and helping her brother and head coach, Roy Sanchez, with the school’s boys basketball team. She retired from New Mexico public schools in May.

The Eldorado stint followed a 16-year women’s basketball coaching tenure at UNM, the last five as head coach. Sanchez led the Lobos to three winning seasons and was named Mountain West Coach of the Year after a 21-13 campaign (14-4 in MWC play) in 2014-15 but was fired after UNM finished 17-15 the following year, and 77-81 overall.

At the time Sanchez said she was uncertain whether she would return to college coaching. She now says her batteries have been recharged.

“Eldorado was a great transition,” she said. “Working in the special ed/autism program and getting a chance to coach with my brother was such a good experience. I’m going to miss the Eagles but it’s time for a new adventure.”

Sanchez joins a Wolverines program that has been successful during Barnes Arico’s tenure. Michigan is 134-73 in her six seasons, making Barnes Arico the winningest women’s coach in program history. The Wolverines went 23-10 last season, losing to Baylor in round two of the NCAA Tournament.

“They have a great staff and Kim’s done a remarkable job,” Sanchez said. “I talked to a few people about other jobs, but things never really worked out. This one felt perfect.”

Sanchez, who is from Los Alamos, is familiar in basketball arenas around New Mexico. She was a star player under coach Don Flanagan at Eldorado High School, helping the Eagles to a pair of state titles, a 77-game winning streak and was named the Journal’s Class 4A Player of the Year in 1985.

Sanchez went on to play collegiately at U.S. International and got into coaching at Our Lady of Peace High School in San Diego. She then served as a college assistant coach at New Mexico State (1993-99), San Diego State (1999-2000) and for 11 seasons under Flanagan at the University of New Mexico. The latter span included 10 winning seasons, seven NCAA Tournament appearances and a run to the Sweet 16 in 2002-03.

She took over as UNM’s head coach when Flanagan stepped down in 2011.

“New Mexico’s home and I’ll always love it,” Sanchez said. “UNM and New Mexico State are special places but Michigan’s obviously special, too. I’m looking forward to doing whatever I can to help this program.”

Sanchez replaces Joy McCorvey, who left Michigan for an assistant’s post at Florida State. Sanchez’s salary was not announced Monday. McCorvey received $101,000 last season.