After a year away from coaching, Ray Romero returns to the hardwood as head coach of the Los Alamos High School Girls Basketball Team.
Romero served as an assistant coach of the Lady Hilltoppers during the 2018-2019 season under then coach Lanse Carter.
Romero took the 2019-2020 season off so he could follow his daughter Kaitlyn Romero during her senior year at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. She played four years for the Lady Skyhawks, working her way into a starting position as a guard. She has now graduated and is working in Los Alamos. She will work with her father as an assistant coach.
Although Romero was named as coach in April, he has had little opportunity to work with his team because of restrictions imposed on social gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The New Mexico Activities Association, which governs high school sports in the state, has decided to begin a phased easing of restrictions. Phase 1 is scheduled to begin June 15, giving Romero the opportunity to finally work with his players.
“It’s going to be fun,” Romero said. “We’ll have to have one coach for every five players (pods). We’ll work on skill development. We’ll have dribbling drills and passing drills (without actual passing of the ball). Every player will have their own basketball. We’ll have to disinfect every day. We’ll all have to be tested for COVID 19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus). I’m looking forward to it. It will be a different kind of challenge. I’m happy to get them in the gym and they’re happy to get back in the gym.”
Romero developed his love of basketball while attending New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. A 1985 graduate of Española Valley High School, Romero earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory for 29 years. He earned a Masters Degree in Human Resources from the College of Santa Fe.
Romero coached youth basketball at Velarde Elementary School for 12 years. In 2007 he had his first job as a high school coach, coaching the Pojoaque High School junior varsity girls basketball team. In 2008 he joined the coaching staff at Española Valley where he served as a varsity assistant to boys basketball coach Richard Martinez. He held that position until 2013. During that time Española was one of the top basketball teams in the state. In 2011, the Sundevils won their first state basketball championship. They defeated Roswell Goddard High School in the Class 4A state championship game.
During his tenure with the boys basketball team at Española, Romero was able to coach his sons, Ray Jr. and Jeremy. Both have now graduated from college and both will assist their father at Los Alamos.
In 2013, Romero was named Head Coach of Española Valley’s girls basketball team. Kaitlyn Romero played point guard on that team. The Lady Sundevils had a good season, advancing to the state quarterfinals. They were the only Class 4A team to beat Class 4A state champion Santa Fe High School during the 2013-2014 season.
Romero left coaching after that season for a year to care for his father. Romero returned as a boys assistant coach at Española in 2015. In 2016, Española won the Class 5A state boys basketball championship, defeating Capital High School in the championship game. Romero stayed at Española through the 2016-2017 season.
All the years as an assistant coach have taught Romero about the game on offense and defense. He adjusts his style to the type of team he has.
“When you have a quicker team, I like to press,” Romero said. “In Los Alamos we seem to have a few more post players, so you can work on an inside-outside game. Develop good ball-handling skills. I did a lot of scouting of other teams at Española. You try to take away the other team’s best player.”
This season, Romero will have to build a team after the Lady Hilltoppers lost five senior players to graduation. He is familiar with some of the returning players from his previous experience as assistant coach.
“They lost five really good seniors,” Romero said. “We’ll have a lot of inexperience. There’s a good core of players.”
Romero mentioned Michaela Gonzales, Rayna Morales, Brandy Sandoval, Jenna Harris and Kaitlyn Velarde as players he could build around.
“They’re good players,” Romero said. “We’ll be able to do some things. They’re all hard workers both in the classroom and on the court.”
Romero believes that being a student and an athlete builds strong kids.
“It’s excellent for your development,” Romero said. “You learn how to manage time, build relationships with your teammates and coaches. You’re coaching them about life as well as the sport you’re coaching.”
Romero also believes in teaching fundamentals and said that process should begin at a young age. Los Alamos has good athletes as evidenced by their success in other sports like cross country, soccer, swimming and track and field. Romero said the same thing can be done with basketball.
“You do the same drills in elementary school that you do in high school,” Romero said. “They don’t have an elementary school (basketball) program in Los Alamos. In middle school, do the same. It takes a whole city.”
His approach to coaching is to always be positive.
“You can’t get down on yourself,” Romero said. “If you make a mistake, correct that mistake. I like to win, but you don’t always win. Enjoy the journey. As long as you did the best you could and left it all on the court.”