When girls’ basketball season tips off in November, fans in Valencia County may be a bit confused.
In March, former Valencia High School coach Manny Vigil was hired to lead the Los Lunas High School Tigers. Then on Saturday, it was confirmed former LLHS coach Marty Zeller is returning to Los Lunas Schools, but this time in charge of the VHS Jaguars girls’ program.
“That’s quite the story,” is how Zeller described it.
To add another twist to that story, both Zeller and Vigil replaced a “Medina” at their new schools — Micaela Medina at VHS, and her father, David Medina at LLHS. Both resigned after last season.
Zeller won five state titles with Los Lunas in his nine years, and he believes a championship pedigree can be built at Valencia.
“It’s a big bonus, the fact that Valencia has talent,” Zeller said, ticking off some of the names of returning players who posted a 19-11 record last season.
“These girls (at VHS) didn’t have a chance to win a championship. I want to be able to give them this opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s all coming together nicely. I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to working with the girls.”
Just as the 2021-22 school year was getting started, Zeller resigned at Los Lunas and took a coaching and teaching job at Mescalero Apache High School in southern New Mexico. One year later, Zeller became boys’ basketball coach and director of basketball at Legacy Academy in Albuquerque.
However, during that time, Zeller maintained a home near Los Lunas High School. His commute to VHS will be a bit more than it was during his time at LLHS.
“The way I look at it, I’m returning home,” Zeller said. “I had to look at my health and the quality of life, first and foremost.”
When asked if he considered applying for the Tigers’ vacancy, Zeller would only say, “That was not an option.”
Zeller is excited about the possibilities at Valencia. He will bring the same philosophy that has helped register ten straight 20-win seasons in girls’ basketball.
“Our mentality is to force tempo, while taking advantage of our conditioning, and be disciplined, disruptive on defense,” he said.
Conditioning will be a priority.
“I’m a fitness freak,” Zeller says. “I’m big on work ethic and preparation. I’m excited to teach a different level of work ethic.”
The first hour of practice will dedicated to fundamentals.
“Master the ‘fun’ in fundamentals, then you’ll end up have fun in basketball — I think they’re going to have a lot more fun with my style,” Zeller predicted.
Zeller won’t be the first to switch from Los Lunas to Valencia, citing a number of colleagues who made the move including VHS principal Alberta Aragon and boys’ basketball coach Jesse Hathoot.
Still, “Of course, it’s strange, a little bit.”
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.