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La Cueva hires alumnus Joyce as boys basketball coach

After 34 years, La Cueva High School finally has its second head boys basketball coach. And he’ll be treading familiar ground.

Brian Joyce, a standout in the very early years of the school and a member of its Hall of Fame, on Friday was announced as the Bears’ successor to Frank Castillo.

Joyce, 47, is a 1991 La Cueva graduate and was a sophomore on the Bears’ first state championship team, in 1989.

Brian Joyce, from a 2012 photo.

“It’s exciting,” Joyce said in a late afternoon interview Friday at La Cueva, the first time he’s set foot on the campus in two years. “It’s an honor to be a part of the foundation that was laid here.”

Castillo was La Cueva’s first coach when the school opened in 1986. He retired last month.

Joyce hasn’t been coaching basketball since 2015 — when he was completing a six-year stint as an assistant at Division I Liberty — as he stepped aside, he said, to focus on his wife Tina and two children, Dalton and Regan. Joyce also has been a D-1 assistant at Colorado State.

In addition, he’s a former former college head coach at Western Nebraska Community College and Northeastern JC in Colorado. He has coached college basketball for 19 years.

“I really hadn’t considered coaching at the high school level,” Joyce said. “I had a chance a couple of years ago, but I just wasn’t interested. The only job I had interest in (high school) was this one.”

Joyce has been living near Lynchburg, Va., since 2009. He has been president and owner of a local gym since 2017.

This hire brings him back to his coaching roots, to his hometown, and to his alma mater.

“First of all he’s a terrific person, very honest, very hard working, no nonsense, and he has a great feel for coaching young men,” said Dale Layer, an assistant coach at Texas A&M and also the head coach at Liberty and CSU when Joyce was on staff at both schools. “He’s a guy who studies. He’s smart. He’s a student of the game. Just the total package. It’s a slam-dunk hire.”

Joyce will be on staff at La Cueva, but he was unsure of what he’ll teach. He has 14 years experience as an assistant college professor.

“I’m excited for him,” said Castillo. “He was a really nice player for us at La Cueva, did a lot of great things. He has quite a résumé at the college level, but he wanted to come back to La Cueva and come home.”

Joyce was the head coach at Western Nebraska Community College from 2007-09. He was head coach at Northeastern JC — where he played collegiately — from 2001-06.

Joyce coached at Liberty from 2009-2015.

He was in a similar situation as this one while at Northeastern, where he took over from a longtime coach, a man with the same kind of experience at one school that Castillo had at La Cueva.

“I know he always had a great affinity for Albuquerque, and New Mexico and his roots there,” Layer said, adding that he wrote a recommendation letter for Joyce to the La Cueva hiring committee. “He was very excited about the prospect of going back home.”

Said Castillo: “He’ll bring a new excitement to the program.”

Joyce, who said he bypassed a couple of offers to coach at New Mexico — “the timing just didn’t fit,” he said — remembered his years playing for Castillo fondly.

“I don’t get to have the success I’ve had, or the career I’ve had, without my experiences there at La Cueva,” Joyce said. “And that starts with coach Castillo.

“He allowed me to be me. I was an intense player, I was stubborn at times, I was challenging to coach. But I was committed to the school, and to the program.”

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