Gabe Martinez resigned as Española Valley’s boys basketball coach less than a month ago.
On Thursday, he was back in the game as Cibola High School hired the 33-year-old to take over its program. Martinez succeeds Ray Rodriguez, who retired two weeks ago after 24 seasons leading the Cougars. Rodriguez remains Cibola’s athletic director.
“When I stepped down from Española, I wasn’t sure if I would take a year off or what I would do,” Martinez said. “Then some jobs started opening up, and I saw that the Cibola job opened. As long as I can remember, when I think of Cibola basketball, I think of coach Rodriguez. So when it opened up, it really intrigued me.”
Martinez is a 2007 Rio Grande graduate, and he played for Wally Salata (now Rio Rancho’s coach) with the Ravens. Later Martinez played at Northern New Mexico College in Española, from 2011-15. He left that school as its all-time scoring and assist leader and was an NAIA All-American his senior season.
He has spent some time coaching preps in Albuquerque, as a former assistant coach to Alvin Broussard at Sandia. He also later coached several seasons alongside Ryan Cordova at NNMC — including multiple seasons as the associate head coach — before taking the Sundevils job.
He was 49-22 in his three seasons with Española Valley.
The Sundevils were the No. 3 seed in the most recent Class 4A state tournament and were beaten in the quarterfinals by Del Norte.
“Something felt good and right about it,” Martinez said of his interest in coming back home to Albuquerque, and to applying at Cibola. “I’m excited about it, and I’m looking forward to getting in there and meeting the guys.”
Cibola is coming off an 8-17 season. The Cougars reside in New Mexico’s most competitive district, as six of the last seven big-school state champions, which includes all four of Cibola’s rivals, have come from 1-5A.
“I think there is a lot of young potential there,” Martinez said. “Just like any program, I’m willing to put in the time and the effort, to potentially do something special.
“I love challenges,” he added.