Martinez was employed for 32 years as a coach and as the athletic director at Pojoaque Valley’s, and now heads south on I-25 to serve as athletic director at Rio Rancho’s Cleveland High School
By Arnie Leshin
After resigning last year as Pojoaque Valley athletic director and former coach after 32 years, nothing has slowed Matt Martinez down. He just picks up the pace.
Now recently named the athletic director at Rio Rancho Cleveland High, Martinez doesn’t need the work, but his experience only provides another chance to excel at another school and gain evenmore recognition to add to his awards.
A graduate of Mora High, Martinez was among those honored at Wednesday’s New Mexico Coaches Association’s Hall of Honor class staged at the awards banquet at Albuquerque’s Crown Plaza. This wrapped up the coaches clinic for the school year.
And a Happy Birthday to Ira Harge, Jr., who was also among coaches on the award list after winning his second-straight boys basketball championship at Pecos High. The Panthers’ head cross country coach, Patrick Ortiz, was also recognized for winning state in boys XC.
Then there was Santa Fe Prep’s Tove Shere. She was honored following her track and field girls team state 3A championship this year.
For Robin Martinez, it was for coaching the St. Michael’s girls to the state golf title, and Taos’ honored cross country head coach Bruce Gomez for his girls cross country team running off with state.
Can’t forget Benny Mitchell, also of Taos, whose track and field boys and girls also placed first at state. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mitchell has been in these parts for quite some time. He had also been assistant boys basketball coach and head football coach at Taos, and that’s quite some versatility in coaching three different sports.
As for Martinez, he first coached girls basketball, went three straight years with only two losses and won state in 1984. He held the reins for 14 years and compiled a 280-75 record. In their three-year run, he gained the state finals each time, with a defeat in one final wiping out an undefeated season.
“My style of play was different than most head coaches,” he said, “but I never thought this would happen. I just worked hard everyday, and this is something special to be recognized by your peers and to get an award for something like this.”
Martinez actually thought he’d be returning to Mora to coach, but after a impressive campaign as coach of girls junior varsity basketball in 1984, he was named the head girls coach.
During his Pojoaque tenure as a coach, athletic director (and bus driver), the school won 22 state championships, was runner-up 19 times, and came away with 45 district titles.
His award was presented by long-time Pojoaque track and field and cross country head coach, Allan Lockridge, who was a logical choice. The two worked together for 30 years, and Lockridge said he learned some things from Martinez that helped him as a coach.
But neither has slowed down. Lockridge still coaches XC and Martinez now heads to Rio Rancho to resume his role as an athletic director with the Cleveland High Storm.