Cleveland High School turned north for its new head boys basketball coach as Zack Cole from Santa Fe High was announced Friday morning as the program’s new leader.
“It’s probably the best coaching job in the state,” Cole, 43, said.
He coached the Demons for the last seven seasons, leading them to the Class 5A state title game in 2019, where Santa Fe (minus an injured J.B. White) fell to Atrisco Heritage.
Cole replaces Sean Jimenez, who stepped down last month. Cleveland was the state champion in 2021.
“What I shared with the (interview) committee is I feel like we share the same vision for education-based athletics, and how one makes the other stronger,” Cole said. “That’s what (Cleveland) is about, incorporating athletics into the community, and that’s my vision. I’m committed to it.”
Cleveland will be a heavy favorite this coming season to advance deep into the 5A playoff bracket.
“This is a perfect opportunity in terms of combining my career and family together,” Cole said.
While his time at Santa Fe was partially about restoring the program’s reputation and status as one of New Mexico’s premier programs, Cleveland will need no such rebuild.
“In terms of the buy-in, I don’t think we’ll have to necessarily focus in on (that),” Cole said. “It’s just gonna be about coming together, implementing our core values and getting everyone on the same page.”
Cole, who was 125-63 at Santa Fe, was one of five men who interviewed for the job on Thursday.
The other four finalists — Highland coach Justin Woody, Las Cruces coach William Benjamin, former Cibola and La Cueva coach Frank Castillo and current Manzano and former Belen coach Andrew Dunnell — all have won state championships.
“We had a really good pool of candidates,” Rio Rancho district athletic director Bruce Carver said, adding, “We’re excited (about Zack).”
One of the other applicants for the Cleveland job (there were 18 of them), Ryan Cordova, a former head coach at Northern New Mexico College in Española, did not interview, but he was hired to be Pojoaque Valley’s head coach earlier this week.