Ray Rodriguez coached men’s basketball for three and a half decades.
The 2021-22 season is his last.
Rodriguez, 62, has retired, the Journal learned on Saturday. For 24 seasons, he has coached the Cibola Cougars.
“I had been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “And you know, I just concluded it was time.”
Rodriguez will remain as Cibola’s sporting director. Before coming to Cibola, he was head coach at Highland High for seven seasons, and he coached in suburban Seattle for four years before returning to New Mexico to take over at Cibola.
“There were guys in the past who said to me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time,'” Rodriguez said. “I understand.”
Rodriguez is retiring with really only one hole on his long and impressive resume: He never quite got over the state tournament hump.
Twice, Rodriguez coached Highland in the Class 4A state championship game, in 1992 and 1993. The Hornets lost to Alamogordo and Albuquerque High. He also had several outstanding teams at Cibola; one of them, in 2004, reached the Class 5A Finals, where the Cougars lost a close defensive battle to Eldorado.
Ray is very humble, but was a great basketball coach for 2 high schools, the test of time says so. Happy for him, he’s a great friend!🏀
—Roy Sanchez (@roy_sanchez21) April 2, 2022
With Rodriguez’s retirement, Eagles coach Roy Sanchez becomes the oldest Albuquerque public school boys varsity coach.
“Ray is very humble, but was a great basketball coach for 2 high schools, the test of time says so. Happy for him, he’s a great friend! Sanchez said in a Twitter tribute to Rodriguez on Saturday.
Amazing coach and even better person. So grateful for the time I spent with his staff at Cibola. I am lucky to have him as a friend and mentor.
— Justin Woody (@CoachJWoody) April 2, 2022
Highlands coach Justin Woody also weighed in on Twitter.
“Amazing coach and even better person. So grateful for the time I spent with his staff at Cibola. Blessed to have him as a friend and mentor,” Woody wrote.
Rodriguez said the pandemic made him think about retirement.
“It just gave people a chance to reflect,” he said. “Coaches usually don’t have that time. For me, that’s what it was, a realization.
Rodriguez said he was unsure what role, if any, he would play in choosing his successor. Cibola is also looking for a new football coach.
“It’s a good time for me to come out and a good time for a new coach to come in,” he said.