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New High School Hires Hoops Coach

By Will Webber
Journal Staff Writer
    The school is still five months from opening its doors, but Volcano Vista is already making waves in the personnel department.
    Three finalists for the planned West Side high school's head basketball coaching position went through final round interviews Thursday morning with principal Yvonne Garcia.
    The winner? By all accounts, it's one of the state's young stars in the coaching profession.
    Greg Brown, who transformed Manzano into a Class 5A powerhouse during his five years with the school, has reportedly been hired as Volcano Vista's new head coach.
    Albuquerque Public Schools spokesman Rigo Chavez said Garcia made her decision on the new coach and was awaiting a call back from the unidentified applicant at the end of the business day Thursday.
    While neither Chavez nor Brown would confirm who that applicant was, two sources familiar with the interview process said Brown was her pick.
    Garcia did not return a telephone message from the Journal. All Chavez would say is that APS was planning to circulate a press release early this morning to announce the coach.
    Brown declined to comment about the job Thursday evening, but he did confirm that he was one of the three finalists. Brown also said he was planning to meet with his players this morning, but would not elaborate on what the topic of that meeting would be.
    The other finalists were Gerome Espinoza and Scott Peterson. Neither could be reached for comment.
    Espinoza has been Del Norte's head coach for four seasons, taking over a moribund program and turning it into a two-time district champion that surpassed the 20-win plateau in each of the past two seasons.
    Peterson is a La Cueva graduate and was a volunteer assistant with the UNM men's basketball team under former coach Ritchie McKay. He also held a non-coaching position with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
    Brown built Manzano's boys program into a powerhouse, guiding the Monarchs to the 2006 Class 5A state championship and to a second-place finish this season. The team had the longest active winning streak in the state at one point this season, while winning 55 of 61 games the last two years.
    Espinoza has been varsity coach at Del Norte for four years. Before that, he spent seven seasons as an assistant to Frank Castillo at La Cueva.
    Espinoza's playing days were spent as a starting guard at Cibola.
    He led Del Norte to the Class 4A finals against St. Pius in '06 and had the top-ranked team in the state much of this past season before suffering a quarterfinal loss to Capital at the state tournament.
    The youngest head coach in 4A at the time of his hiring, Espinoza's resume mirrors Brown's in that he turned a moribund program around with quick progress.
    Rather than facing a rebuilding project at Volcano Vista, the new hire will have the rare chance to establish a program with an effort that will take at least two years to complete. Castillo knows what that's like, having done so twice in his career.
    He was at Cibola when that school opened, then was named the first head coach in La Cueva's history in the late 1980s.
    "It's different these days," Castillo said. "Back then, you started varsity competition right away. Maybe it will be an easier transition for those kids to avoid a varsity schedule for a year or two."
    Volcano Vista will open to freshmen in August and will be without a senior class for at least two years. School officials have said the earliest any Hawks athletic teams would play a varsity schedule would be the 2008-09 academic year. More likely it would be 2009-10.
    Coaches say it will take every minute of that to cultivate a team of young and inexperienced kids and get them to a competitive level against more seasoned programs.