The next chapter in the history books of the Taos Tigers boys basketball program is about to be written, as Hernando “Nando” Chavez is tapped to be its next head coach. The longtime Taos Municipal Schools employee is currently a U.S. history teacher at Taos Middle School and serves as an assistant coach for Taos Tiger cross-country and track teams. Chavez has been the eighth-grade basketball coach for the last six years and is also the athletic coordinator at his school – a position he has held for the last five years.
“I’m humbled by the chance to serve in this capacity,” said Chavez. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be a head coach and I’m looking forward to leading the Tigers.”
Coach Chavez graduated from Taos High School in 2002 and received his undergraduate degree from New Mexico Highlands University in 2008. Chosen from a pool of multiple candidates, Chavez was notified of his selection May 23.
Chavez takes over the program from Daniel “Doc” Trujillo, whose contract was not renewed following the 2016-17 season. Trujillo was hired to replace Rick Apodaca in 2010 and led his teams to an overall record of 109-93 (.539 win percentage).
The last two seasons have seen the Taos Tigers struggle to win games against district opponents; the team won only one league game in the last two years. An administrative oversight this past season caused the Taos Tigers to have all their wins forfeited (except one, against the St. Michael’s Horsemen) by the New Mexico Activities Association, ending Taos’ season with a 1-26 overall record. The Taos Tigers realized they had a fifth-year senior on the roster and they self-reported the infraction of athletic rules to the NMAA, prompting the sanction against the team.
The conclusion of the 2016-17 season also saw the premature departure of two of the team’s starters – leaving an undermanned squad to lose to the Pojoaque Valley Elks 52-44 in the district tournament Feb. 21.
While not completely done yet, Chavez has been working diligently since the announcement of his hiring to put together his team of assistants. “Getting the best coaches to teach our kids is priority No. 1,” said Chavez, who said that the measuring stick that will be used to determine success may come well after graduation. “I only get one chance to do it right, so it’s very important to me to put a great staff together. My hope is to get a nice balance of people who have plenty of basketball knowledge, but can also instill great life skills that our young men can use after high school.”
As Chavez outlined his five-point plan for his first year, he said, “It’s also a goal of mine to put a competitive team on the floor when we step in front of our fans. Taos Tiger [home] games are community events, and I want my players to demonstrate these traits on a nightly basis: the love of the sport and their teammates, the will to compete and become better versions of themselves, a shared trust in the process, confidence in themselves and their team and a knowledge that if the first four steps are followed, success will come.”
Chavez is among a slew of first-year coaches – in their respective and current teams – in and around the region who will be leading their new teams. In District 2-4A alone, there are four new head coaches in boys basketball. David Rodriguez at St. Michael’s High School, Clyde Sanchez at West Las Vegas and Thomas Vigil at Pojoaque Valley share the distinction with Chavez. “We’re in a great position to reclaim our top spot in the league,” said Chavez, who cautiously noted that the unfamiliarity will run both ways, but was eager to tackle the coming challenge. “The district is wide open.”
Taos’ new coach is the younger brother of a longtime Questa baseball and basketball coach, Cruz Chavez II, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. “Cruz would have been extremely proud of me,” said Chavez, alluding to his new position. He coached alongside his brother in multiple settings. “It’s a fitting tribute to him and a great way for me to honor his memory.”
Chavez is ready to get down to business, announcing that “open gym” at Taos High School and Taos Middle School will begin this week. Monday through Friday from 3-5 p.m. will be the times for any interested basketball players.