Mike Maldonado hopes to be reinstated as head coach of West Las Vegas football and boys’ track. But he said he entertains no illusions about that possibility.
Maldonado was informed by Superintendent Jim Abreu that he will not be retained in either capacity, effective immediately. Maldonado, who also teaches at the high school, coached football for two seasons and track for one.
The spring track and field preseason begins in a couple of weeks.
Abreu said he’d hoped to see more progress since hiring Maldonado away from the Carslbad school system in the late spring of 2007. He said he wanted “to go in a different direction.”
“I’m a little upset at the way things went down,” Maldonado told the Optic on Monday evening. “I don’t think I was given a fair shake. I don’t know what (Abreu) expected in a year and ahalf ... but we were headed in the right direction.”
In football, the Dons went 3-7 in ‘07, Maldonado’s first at the helm. This past season, the team went 6-4 and missed the cut for state playoffs by a matter of points in a three-way tiebreaker with district foes Robertson and Pojoaque Valley.
In track, the WLV boys placed eighth at state in May ‘08.
“I think we’ve done a lot better than in the last five years,” Maldonado said of West football. And losing the track job, he said, “came as a surprise.”
He said individual parents may have weighed in on the decision to fire him, much like some parents contributed to the eventual departure of WLV boys’ basketball coach Hamilton Doyle last school year.
“I thought I had a good rapport with most of the parents,” Maldonado said. “Except for a couple, I guess, and they turned out to be influential.”
Abreu has said the decision on Maldonado was his alone.
The superintendent stood behind Doyle amid heavy pressure by parents calling for his ouster in the middle of the 2007-08 basketball season. But after guiding the Dons to the state championship game, Doyle resigned and is now coaching at Socorro.
Maldonado pointed to similar troubles. He said that in one case last football season, a parent called him and pressured him not to play a certain student-athlete and reiterated that during a call during a game and again in a one-on-one meeting.
“I didn’t realize how political this place was,” Maldonado said.
“I’m very disappointed. This is the only place I wanted to take a job. I’ve had other offers and I had a good situation in Carlsbad ... This is home. I grew up here. My dad lives up the road in Santa Fe. My mom lives here. This is where I wanted to be. I still want to be here, but I don’t think that option’s going to be available to me.”
Maldonado said he thought his coaching staff had done a good job with limited resources. He said his program’s budget had been cut and he had to raise money for helmets and uniforms, enlisting players in various work projects.
Additionally, he said, the team has had to practice on an adjacent field while the Frank Herrera Complex underwent improvements over the last year.
“I think we did a good job based on what we had.”
“I was a loyal employee,” he said. “Everything (Abreu) asked, I did.”
He said the football team lost a key contest at Pojoaque “but that’s part of the game. You can coach but you can’t go out and play for (the team).”
His track athletes, he said, had “faster times than we’ve ever seen.” Except for three key absences at the state meet due to a conflict with confirmation classes, the Dons could have been top five, he added.
In an interview last week, Abreu outlined the decision.
“I gave Coach Maldonado two years to develop a program. I was not convinced ... and I’ve decided to go in another direction.”
Abreu said he appreciated Maldonado’s work and wished him well should he coach in the future. And he pledged to evaluate his teaching contract as he would other teachers on staff in the district.
The superintendent said that while he no longer felt Maldonado to be a good fit as a coach in the WLV athletic department, he said he does believe in the idea of giving coaches time to flourish.
“There’s something to be said for stability and keeping coaches in place and allowing them to develop their program.”
Maldonado said he didn’t think he’d been given that chance.
“I thought, going 6-4, that we’d made great strides,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”