Rick Apodaca made sure his step up to a varsity coach was a big one.
Apodaca, an assistant coach for the Portales boys basketball team for six seasons and a graduate of Tucumcari High School, on Thursday accepted the head coaching position at Class 4A Taos High School.
“For me to go into a situation like that as my first job, it’s going to be unbelievable,” Apodaca said. “They’ll support you either way, but when you’re winning the community will support you unbelievably. I just like the tradition that they’ve got there.” Taos will be the first varsity coaching position for Apodaca, a 1994 graduate of Tucumcari High School. Apodaca earned his bachelor’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University in 2000, and his master’s degree this month.
Portales coach Mark Gallegos said that Apodaca was also a finalist for a similar position at Moriarty High School.
Gallegos said he knew “from day one” that Apodaca planned to move on, and he supported the move fully.
“I really think he was ready. It’s just when you’re a young coach, it’s just a matter of somebody giving you an opportunity,” Gallegos said. “Rick has a really good comprehension of the X’s and O’s and the fundamental parts of the game, and he relates really well to kids.”
Apodaca will replace James Branch, who was relieved of his basketball coaching duties in March after five seasons.
“We’re looking for somebody that can bring a type of style of basketball that’s consistent with Northern basketball,” Taos athletic director Anthony Gutierrez said. “What we as a committee felt was that Coach Apodaca was the best candidate through his enthusiasm, his professionalism and his strong work ethic.”
Apodaca was the freshman coach for Portales for four seasons, but has been the junior varsity coach for the last two years with a record of 25-17. Both Gallegos and Apodaca compared the current situation to when Gallegos came to Portales after being an assistant at Alamogordo High School. “I just think it’s time. Being under coach Gallegos, I’ve learned that patience was something I really needed,” Apodaca said of the Portales coach. “Mutually, we decided it was just a time to be moving on and stepping in a new role.
“I didn’t want to take a job just to take a job and I learned that from Coach Gallegos. I wanted to go in knowing I could be successful.” Gutierrez thinks Apodaca will get every chance to do that with the Tigers, who finished as the District 2-5A runnerup and lost in regionals to Kirtland Central.
“ We can be 0-99 and we’re going to bring 2,000 people to the gym,” Gutierrez said. “Everybody’s a basketball fanatic in the north, everybody’s a basketball coach in the north.”
Apodaca said he wanted to implement an uptempo offense for the Tigers, but to emphasize discipline as well.
“By discipline, I don’t mean pulling the ball out all the time,” Apodaca said. “I just mean getting the right kids to take the right shots. I think it’s going to be a combination of what I do and mixing it with the type of athletes you have.”