LOS LUNAS — There are plenty of behind-the-scenes connections linking the high school athletic programs in Valencia County together. One of those ties is a cog in the recent success of Los Lunas boys basketball.
Belen native Pablo Gabaldon has been an assistant under head coach Travis Julian for six years, following a half dozen years of coaching at Belen High School. Gabaldon played basketball at BHS for David Medina, the current girls coach at LLHS. Another connection.
Gabaldon is proud of his time with the Eagles, including his role as interim head coach that included a district championship and trip to the Pit for the State Tournament. Gabaldon applied for the head coaching position full-time.
“I didn’t get it, but sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise — nothing against Belen,” Gabaldon said.
When Gabaldon changed allegiance there were some hard feelings.
“There was a lot of ‘traitor’ and things like that, which comes with it, which is fine.”
But with the two schools in different classes and districts, now the rivalry and the rhetoric seems to have cooled.
Gabaldon is comfortable wearing the Tigers’ orange and blue. The move “wasn’t difficult because the players and coaching staff welcomed me with open arms. It was a new beginning.”
And a different approach to coaching.
“I’ve learned a ton under Travis Julian, and it’s been a great experience,” he said. “I feel, overall, I’m a better coach after taking the jump at that time.”
Gabaldon’s duties with the Tigers include helping with offense during practice. Early in the season he was responsible for ball handling.
“I’m in charge of the subbing,” Gabaldon said. “He (Julian) trusts me enough to make the call.”
The assistant coach said the long hours are a given.
“We do a lot of scouting and watching film. It’s a constant, every night.”
Gabaldon, a science teacher at LLHS, hopes to take what he has learned and be a head coach again someday.
“That’s the ultimate goal. I’ll see if there’s an option that fits and, if not, I’m happy right now with what I do. Even teaching-wise. I love the teaching.”
(Editor’s note: This is one in a series looking behind the scenes at high school basketball programs in Valencia County.)
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.