Friday, June 4, 2010

Garcia Retires After 20 Years As Socorro Girls Basketball Coach

By Nicky Romero
For the Mountain Mail

The Socorro girls basketball program has had only two coaches in the last 34 years, which speaks well to the program's consistency and success through the years. Coach Joseph Garcia has played a major part in this program since 1990. Garcia decided last week to retire as head coach after 20 years at the helm and 361 victories at the varsity level.
The Socorro basketball program is 35 years old. Joanne Davis started the program with six girls the very first year and ended with a 0-7 record. Coach Doc Stanley coached the girls the next 14 years and won 177 games.
Garcia has a total of 28 years of coaching in Socorro That includes a five-year stint at the middle-school level and three years as assistant coach at the high school.
Garcia, fondly known by some as the “Stormin Bear” never mellowed much over the years on the sidelines. To understand this nickname, all you have to do is ask rival coaches and referees that he sometime tangled with. But off the court, he was much more like a teddy bear.
“Obviously, you develop a lot of close friendships with the girls,” Garcia said. “If there is anything I'm going to miss, it's the personal relationships I had with the kids. That's been the hardest for me the last two weeks. I've been getting calls and texts from coaches around the state and old players. So that's kinda of made me feel good, but it's also made me feel sad.

“No one really knew about this coming, including my players. On the Monday that I turned the retirement letter in, I gave it to my wife Tina, who I had been hinting to the last few months, but she still didn't believe me. Twenty-eight years is a long time and next year is my last year of teaching.”
Even though he kept it a secret from his team, the current players had an inkling about his retirement from coaching.
“The way I looked at it, I didn't want to be in a lame-duck situation. I know they would have all played hard next year, but then I thought that if you don't have that one little edge over them they could be saying he's not going to be here next year anyway. I didn't want to be put in that situation.
Garcia also wanted to leave knowing the girls program was in good shape for the next head coach to take over.
“I've also wanted to get out when I thought there were a lot of kids coming back,” Garcia said. “There are nine girls returning, c-team is undefeated, eighth grade is undefeated. I didn't want to be where they said he only got out when it didn't look like he was going to have a team coming back. I also wanted to leave after coming off a 21 win season.”
“One thing that I've been real pleased with is our consistency in winning. No one can say that we weren't consistent. We averaged 18 wins a year, most of those wins coming in a 22-game schedule. And in Socorro, you don't play a lot of those games at home. We usually play two out of every three games on the road.”
Garcia's team records included nine district championships, six district runner-ups, never went to state as an “at-large” pick which he is proud of, four final fours, and two state championship runner-ups. He is also proud of having only two losing seasons in his 28 years of coaching.
Garcia could not pick a favorite team from the past, because to him they were all special. But he had to mention his very first team because of a special reason.
“I was really pleased with the very first team I had, because that was the very first year that they opened up “The Pit” for girls state basketball to play. Before that, the girls always had to play in the high school gyms in Albuquerque. So actually, we were the very first girls team to play in “The Pit”. That was special.”
Girls that played that year included his daughter, Carla Jo Garcia, Sheyna Wisdom, Lil Romero, and Melissa West, Charity Savedra, Cassandra Anaya, Irma Wagner, Melanie and Stacy Greenwood, Helen Ulibarri, and Miranda Ortega.
He is also proud of the girl's individual accomplishments thru the years: 28 girls playing in the South All-Star Game, 25 times (some multiple times) that girls made the All State Teams, and girls going to play in college and getting their degrees.
Garcia also could not pick out a favorite player, although he did have a sentimental favorite who he coached for three years in the early 90's, his daughter Carla Jo Garcia.
“I've coached hundreds of girls and they end up being almost like they're your daughters. You spend so much time with them. They have personal problems on the side. They have personal highlights. You spend a lot of time with them in the off-season too.”
There is not enough said about his unsung heroes who helped him through the years. “You also have to have a very understanding spouse. Tina missed a lot of stuff because of this, but she went to a lot of stuff without me because of this. I really appreciate all that she did. She's the one that brought up our son and daughter, Carla and Louis, because I was gone half the time.”
“All my athletic directors have always been very supportive of girls basketball. Charlie Savedra was my first one. I started with Charlie and ended with Charlie. I also had Tony Gonzales, Randy Valles, Chuck Zimmerly, and Danny Padilla. All the boy head basketball coaches since the start have been supportive and willing to share practice time and gym space with the girls.”
Last, but not least, were his loyal and hardworking assistant coaches that he really relied on and could depend on them when needed or called upon.
“To me, you are only as good as your assistant coaches and your players, obviously. The first one that spent a lot of time with me was Mario Perez. He was my assistant for 12 years. Marleen Greenwood now has been my assistant for 12 years. Greg Ezell has been with me for the last five years. Those three have been the three mainstays. They spent countless hours with me and the girls traveling to camps out-of-state and in-state. They're giving up of their time, because they don't get paid for it in the summer. That just shows their dedication to the program and to the kids.”
Garcia's main endeavors has always been teaching and coaching. But now with both of these coming to an end, he will finally take the plastic covers off his new golf set. He would like to warn everyone that he will be making his return to the golf course. He promises to follow official golf etiquitte and rules and not his own. He will continue to follow his favorite sports teams --- the Celtics, the Yankees, the Cowboys, the Lobos, and of course, the Warriors and the Lady Warriors. He also looks forward to traveling the world with his wife and spending more time with his grandkids.
“Maybe, I can be there for my grandkids, since I wasn't there half the time for my own kids. I never got to see my son play basketball in high school, because I was always out coaching my daughter. That was a trade-off. I was there with my daughter and Tina was there with Louis.”
As he fades into retirement, he remembers one of his favorite western movies and the theme song, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. It reminds him of the ups and downs of coaching. He goes on with life mostly remembering “The Good”.
Now he can take a seat in the stands at the “Warrior Dome” and cheer on his Lady Warriors who he helped to develop and hopefully he can watch them continue to grow.

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