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Mora County Notebook: Coach James Branch comes full circle

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By Ruth Fort

James Branch, the new basketball coach at Mora High School, has gone full circle. He now leads the team that he once played for during his days as a student at Mora High School in the 1970s. During his high school days, Branch was a star basketball player for the Rangers, coached by Arthur Romero and Douglas Velarde. He was fast and his athletic ability helped earn the Rangers a trip to the state tournament. Branch was given honorable mention in All State basketball in 1977 — the year he graduated from Mora High School.

He then entered New Mexico Highlands University in 1978 and by 1982 he obtained a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree with a major in physical education (K- 12) and a minor in journalism, endorsement in language arts, administrative licensure.

At Highlands he was a varsity letterman in basketball and cross country. He was a national cross country qualifier.

After Highlands, he coached and taught other New Mexico athletes and students at House, Taos, Questa and Mesa Vista.

At these schools he has held various positions including athletic director, head coach of boys and girls varsity basketball teams, track and field coach, physical educator instructor, English teacher and principal.

During his tenure at Questa, his team won the state championship. He was also voted Coach of the Year by the Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal North Boy’s Coach of the Year and Albuquerque Journal Class AA Boy’s Coach of the Year. He was also The New Mexican Coach of the Year in all classes.

Branch said, ”the secret to coaching successfully is to make the players believe in themselves and buy into the proven system of play ... a superior coach demonstrates, but a great coach inspires.”

James expects his teams to be role models in the school by being good students, respectful, prompt, to value God and the gift of life. He feels that it is his responsibly to lead by example and bring the team together.

Branch was born and raised in Mora. His parents were the late Richard and Grace Madrid Branch. He has seven siblings Michael, Benny, Richard (deceased), Gerry, Eva, Louis, (deceased), and Joseph.

He is married to Darlene Branch, a first grade teacher at Taos Elementary. They have two daughters, Ashley who is attending NMHU and Jennifer, a sophomore at Taos High School and on the basketball team.

His personal interest includes weight training, running, watching movies, listening to music and spending time with his family. He is a fitness enthusiast. He also enjoys freelance writing. He has written for Hoops Magazine, Taos News and Santa Fe New Mexican. He is motivated, inspirational, decisive energetic and passionate. This shows in his work with sports and community. He has just been given a part-time job as supervisor at the Taos Christian Academy.

He is happy to be back in Mora, where he began his life and his career in basketball. The first game that he will be coaching will be at the University of New Mexico “Pit” at 6 pm. on Friday, Nov. 17 in Albuquerque, as the Rangers take center court against the current state champions — Mesilla Valley Christian School from Las Cruces. Branch said he is excited to have this opportunity for his first game as coach of the Mora Rangers.

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may  be reached at (575) 387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.