Lopez takes over as new Gonzales boys' bench boss
Not a lot of college basketball programs are looking to recruit small shooting guards.
That is why Gonzales boys head basketball coach Raymond Lopez concluded his career on the hardwood after graduation from high school and later stood on the edge of the court as both an assistant and head coach.
“Basketball was, is and will always be my first love,” Lopez said. “I wanted to play after high school, but colleges at the time were not looking for 5-8 guards.”
While in college, he kept up with the career of his younger brother, Marty, who played at Bryan High School from 1982-1984. Seeing his brother play drew Lopez to the game and he decided to stay involved in basketball by starting a 21-year-and-counting coaching career.
Lopez graduated from Bryan High School in 1979 and attended nearby Texas A&M University. He graduated in 1985 with a Degree in Kinesology and minored in Spanish, Health and Special Education. While at TAMU, Lopez also did graduate work in strength and conditioning, and was a personal trainer for several years.
In 1990, Lopez entered the coaching world as he worked as an assistant basketball and football coach at Donna High School in the Rio Grande Valley.
In 1997, Lopez returned to Bryan to care for his ill parents and he took an assistant boys basketball position at his alma matter, working under head coach at the time, Tim Martin, who currently is the head coach at Alief Elsik High School near Houston.
“I learned a lot from him,” Lopez said. “I owe him a lot.”
Lopez coached alongside Martin in the 2001 Class 5A state title game against Sugar Land Willowridge. Bryan came out on the losing end, 65-58, after playing a team that had four future National Basketball Association (NBA) players on the roster.
Lopez said the experience he got coaching in that game helped propel him to his first-ever head basketball position.
Lopez went to Hearne High School in 2001 to take over the boys basketball program. He went 63-7 in two seasons, winning a pair of district titles and advancing to the regional quarterfinals both times.
Lopez spent the 2003-04 season in Overton in east Texas, where he went 18-15 in his one season at the helm. Afterwards, he took the head boys position in Wharton for four years where Lopez went 85-15 and won two district titles.
He won 20 or more games every season and was named Wharton County Coach of the Year twice, while winning several other defensive awards.
Lopez went to Somerville in 2007 and coached until 2009, going 36-25 and they were bi-district finalists during one of the seasons. In 2009, Lopez was hired at Austin Eastside Memorial shortly after the school opened. In his first season, there was no varsity team but Lopez still coached a freshmen and junior varsity team.
In 2010-11, Lopez coached the first varsity basketball team to a 15-15 season. Following that school year, Lopez returned to Somerville and returned to his post as head boys basketball coach, leading the team to a 15-13 record.
Lopez then applied for the Gonzales boys basketball opening, interviewed and was offered the job.
As the old cliché goes, third time is the charm and this was the third time Lopez had applied for head coach of Gonzales Runnin’ Apaches. He is replacing Jason Tucker, whose 2011-2012 team became the first to miss the playoffs in the last 10 years.
“I tried hard in the past to get this job because I know Gonzales has strong traditions,” he said. “I know there is talent in Gonzales hoops,” Lopez said. “When the post came open, I felt it would be a good fit for me so I applied.”
The Runnin’ Apaches recent tradition has had the teams focused on stellar defensive play – another reason for Lopez to apply.
“I am a very defensive-minded coach,” he said. “I want the players to play good defense and get rebounds. That has always been my card.”
“My teams are usually the top teams in percentage of points scored against us. You have to stop someone sometime in order to win a game.”
Lopez said he has talked Gonzales basketball with former Apache head coach Shawn Dalbert and one of Dalbert’s assistants, current GISD high school and junior high football and junior high basketball coach Willis Steward. Dalbert and Steward both stressed the importance of a solid defense when they were coaching the GHS Runnin’ Apaches.
Lopez said he feels he can make a difference in the program and continue its rich tradition. Going into the 2012-13 school year, Lopez estimated that he has won over 200 games as head coach.