Former LLHS coach Doyle picked to lead Jaguars

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Hamilton Doyle said he had a hunch about the Valencia High boys basketball team when he found out the school was hiring a new head coach — a feeling he's had when considering jobs in his career.

"Sometimes I get hunches and, when I went with that gut feeling, I think I hit the jackpot," Doyle said in a recent phone interview. "Every time I felt that, we made a run for state."

A run for state is exactly what the Jaguars have in mind from their new coach, who accepted the position two weeks ago.

The News-Bulletin caught up with Doyle right after he had first seen his VHS squad running on the court for the first time. And Doyle was excited.

"I have been fortunate enough to see hidden gems here when other people don't see them," he said. "Tonight, after watching them go up and down the floor, I think I've found another hidden gem, another team that's better than people think they are."

Landing at VHS was a homecoming of sorts for Doyle when he took the boys basketball head coaching position at Valencia High two weeks ago.

That's because Doyle served as head boys basketball coach at Los Lunas from 2000 to 2003, amassing a 29-42 record while at the helm. Doyle most recently was the head coach at East Mountain High School in Edgewood.

"Honestly, what I really can say is that I took the job because a lot of people I'm working with at Valencia were people I worked with at Los Lunas High," Doyle said.

"The nice thing about taking 10 years off and then coming back is teaming up with people you worked with before." he said. "The rapport is there already, which makes things easier."

Los Lunas Schools Athletic Director Wilson Holland said 16 coaches applied for the boys basketball position.

The job which was vacated at the end of the 2012-13 season when first-year coach Ezau Rios resigned to pursue business opportunities after a 5-22 season.

In the end, the hiring committee interviewed six finalists, including Jaguars assistant coach Joshua Grine, and recommended Doyle as the top prospect to superintendent Bernard Saiz.

"Coach Doyle has head coaching experience, he's been to a state championship and he had experience in the classroom," Holland said. "Our preferred best practice is to get someone who has experience in a classroom environment.

"We're not trying to exclude anyone. But if you ask any AD across the state they'll tell you, if possible they like to have a coach be on-site, teaching in a classroom," said Holland.

Doyle has had experience in the state championship game both as head coach and as an assistant. Doyle was on the bench in 2004 and 2005 when Bernalillo High won back-to-back Class 3A state titles.

From there, Doyle took over for one year at Raton High School before spending two seasons at West Las Vegas (N.M.) High. In his second season, 2008, Doyle led the Dons to their first state championship game since 1971. WLV lost to district foes Pojoaque in the Class 3A title game, but it was the off-court happenings that made news.

Discontent with Doyle's coaching style and decisions had boiled over earlier in the season, leading to a five-player walkout, disagreements with team parents and the WLV administration and even a physical confrontation with a fan.

The Dons magical state tournament run was marred by the fact that Doyle received death threats and had to have a bodyguard accompany him to state playoff games.

Doyle moved on to Socorro High for 2009 and 2010 but ultimately resigned after again more discord with boosters and parent. He then took a year off before taking over at East Mountain in 2012.

Doyle said his experiences at West Las Vegas and Socorro were a "learning experience" that helped him to mature.

"We did some out-of-the-box things there and it threw some off some the people who had a paradigm of their own," he said. "I learned to get more thick-skinned and see things from other people's point of view."

After his stint at Socorro, Doyle said he learned more about communication.

"I learned you have to be more sensitive to what people's needs are," he said. "It was good learning experience."

Doyle's son, Josh, a senior at East Mountain High, will be joining his father at Valencia. Josh Doyle played point guard for the Timberwolves basketball team the past few seasons but is "really more of a shooting guard," Hamilton Doyle said.

The younger Doyle was also a key for East Mountain on the baseball diamond, leading the T-Wolves to a top seed in the Class 2A State baseball Tournament this past season as a switch-hitting shortstop.

Asked if his son would immediately get playing time at VHS, Doyle said it was likely, while jokingly recalling father and son's time at EMHS.

"He probably got yelled at more than anyone else," Doyle joked. "I think I've asked him to do more than anyone else."

Doyle said he'll likely open up the Jaguars offense, especially with three-point shooting, which he said the Jaguars were very good at on his first look at the team. Defensively, he said the team would likely switch between match-up zone and man-to-man.

But overall, he said his philosophy would be to try and create match-up problems for other teams.

"We'll want to dictate the pace and play in different ways," said Doyle. "We want to get as versatile as possible."

After seeing his team in the flesh, Doyle said he has high hopes for his first season.

"The sky's the limit as far as what this team is capable of doing," Doyle said. "My intention is to come in and set a standard and make people at Valencia High proud of that new standard."