Taos hires new coach from its own ranks

Eric Mares, the new Taos girls basketball coach, hugs Isiah Jeantete after he sinks a buzzer beater in the District 2-4A championship game at Española Valley earlier this year. Mares was formerly a boys assistant coach for the Tigers.

Taos girls basketball has a new head coach.

Eric Mares, who has been involved in the basketball programs at Taos in some capacity for several years, was chosen to lead the girls program, which won just 10 games a season ago.

Mares replaces former head coach David Sanchez, who resigned, according to outgoing Taos athletic director Nickie McCarty.

Mares most recently coached the boys junior varsity team, which posted a 14-1 record last season. Mares was also an assistant on the boys varsity squad. He was in those positions for three seasons before becoming the girls head coach – which is his first formal head coaching title.

“I think he will do an excellent job,” McCarty said of Mares. “He has already surrounded himself with strong people. He’s a great guy and will work hard for the program.”

Mares said he appreciates the support from everyone involved.

Sanchez had coached the girls basketball team for the past four seasons, amassing an overall record of 31-76 during his tenure. Before becoming head coach, Sanchez was an assistant for the girls team since 2012. Prior to that, he was the girls basketball head coach for Peñasco from 2009-2012, leading that program to two semifinal appearances in Class 2A.

Sanchez resigned, he said, because he has another grandkid on the way and wants to spend more time with family. 

He added: “[The girls] are going to do very well in the future and are in great hands with Eric Mares and Clarence Vigil running the program.”

McCarty said that Mares’ resume was viewed by a committee made up of people from the community, parents, students and even teaching staff.

That committee’s recommendation was given to superintendent Lillian Torrez, who made the final decision, said incoming athletic director Mae LaBella. LaBella, who officially starts her new job as athletic director on July 15, wasn’t involved in the hiring process.

Mares has been a longtime resident of the Taos area and is a 2004 Taos High School graduate, where he played a variety of sports. He is currently the clinical director at Taos Behavioral Health in Taos.

Mares said that one of the key themes he wants to instill as coach is that student-athletes are students first.

“In order to be a good athlete, you have to be a good person off the court,” Mares said. “Athletics are going to be the secondary focus after academics.”

Mares said that with this new group of girls, his main goal is to get the fundamentals down. So far, the girls were practicing during the summer before all prep sport practices were suspended over the weekend.

“They’re talented but they are young,” Mares said. “ We see a lot of potential. When it comes to fundamentals, we are hoping to bring success to the program and help them understand that at a higher level of competition, you need to execute those fundamentals.”

The new head coach will be joined by Clarence Vigil, who was also an assistant for the Taos boys and, at one point, a head coach for the Peñasco girls basketball team as well. Vigil was also a member of the 1981 Peñasco boys basketball team, which won a state title.

“He’s been involved in coaching for quite some time,” Mares said of Vigil. “ He really brings a deep-rooted knowledge of where Northern New Mexican athletics have been, and how we can go forward to be more successful.”

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