Eric Orell admitted, he wasn’t entirely certain if another chance would come along like the one that became official Monday.
“I didn’t think it would come again,” he said, “and I was OK with that.”
Orell’s third go-round as a head boys basketball coach in Albuquerque arrived Monday afternoon, as the 45-year-old was announced as the coach at La Cueva.
“I was really blessed with another opportunity,” said Orell.
Orell already has been a teacher at La Cueva for the last six years, and for four years he was an assistant to coach Frank Castillo with the Bears.
Last season, Orell was an assistant coach with Justin Woody at Class 4A state champion Highland.
He becomes the third boys head coach at La Cueva, following Castillo and Brian Joyce. Joyce resigned earlier this summer after just two seasons, one of them being the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season that was played in just a few weeks in the spring of 2021.
“I was on campus as a teacher, so I’m familiar with a lot of the kids,” said Orell. “That definitely factored into the decision, being in one spot.”
Orell has previously been a head boys varsity coach at both Bosque School and then at Manzano. He was at each school for three seasons.
Before he was a head coach, he was a boys assistant at Manzano under both Greg Brown and Travis Julian.
La Cueva returns an extremely talented team next season, although incoming senior guard Exodus Ayers, the leading scorer last season, is leaving the school to attend a prep school in New Hampshire.
Guard Ced Yates and big man Daniel Jacobsen are among the starters returning next season.
“The talent they have coming back, and the community as a whole, the younger kids, too, all that factored in,” Orell said. “It was one of those things, it had to be the right opportunity, and hands down, this was the right opportunity.”
Orell said he wasn’t actively looking to leave Highland, an experience with good friend Woody he described as “awesome.”
“My wife said, you have to do this. If you don’t, you’ll regret it,” he said.”