Goddard boys basketball coach Anthony Mestas stands at the far end of the bench with his arms folded as his team wins another game at Ground Zero.
Outside of the 1988 state championship in basketball, the boy’s program has not achieved the same amount of success as the football program has. That was one of the appeals that made the former two-time Blue Trophy winner at Hagerman want to take the Goddard coaching job. Mestas won it all in 2011, going 31-0 and in 2014 going 26-4. After accomplishing all that he could at Hagerman, Mestas decided he needed a bigger challenge.
The road to Goddard has not been easy for Mestas. Mestas played football and basketball at Clovis High School, while playing he knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in the coaching profession. Mestas worked two jobs while attending Eastern New Mexico University, often he would rise at 5 a.m., and go to work at IGA to stock groceries, then go to class and work at his second job at Greyhound Arena. Mesas graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in 2002 and his Masters in 2010 from ENMU.
With two state championships under his belt and a career record of 292-110 in his 14 years of coaching Mestas is in his fourth year as Rockets coach. Roswell Daily Record sports interviewed coach Mestas about his time at Hagerman, Goddard and what a young player can learn from him.
RDR: Is there any pressure to win at Goddard? Was there any pressure to win at Hagerman?
AM: The only pressure for me is the pressure that I put on myself to win and compete at a high level. If you look at the coaching history at Goddard, only one other coach has had more wins in their first 4 years. If we get 5 more wins this season then my first 4 years will surpass his. For one reason or another, winning does not come easy at Goddard. That is a lot of the reason I took this job. I didn’t want to go to a school that was already winning and to a program that was already built. I wanted a challenge. I enjoy working at Goddard. I have a terrific coaching staff and administration staff that back me on a daily basis. Mr. Luck has treated me so well during my time here at Goddard from the academic and athletic sides.
RDR: How do you keep yourself and your kids motivated and looking forward?
AM: Gotta keep working every day. Gotta get better. There is always room for improvement each day, each week, and each year. Our goal is to get to the first round each year and try to win that game. Anything can happen if you make the playoffs. Everyone sees Goddard as a football school, not basketball. I like to use that as motivation. I tell my guys you are basketball players and we need to change the stereotype and prove that we can win at Goddard.
RDR: I would like to know your thoughts on what it is like to coach at the 5A level?
AM: Basketball is basketball, you have to prepare and bring it every night. It doesn’t matter what classification you are at. I played basketball at Clovis High so when I became the head coach in Hagerman I feel I brought a big school mentality with me. We played the game at a very high level. My coaching outlook hasn’t changed much at the 5A level. I enjoy the chess match that we have when playing the other teams. You got to bring it every night in 5A because if you don’t, your team will get run off the court.
RDR: Is there any difference in athletes- like the NFL from college, bigger, stronger, faster?
AM: Again, there hasn’t been much difference. To be honest with you Hagerman produces some very athletic kids. The tallest kid I’ve coached was a 6’9” post named Bill Squire. He was recruited by about 10 different Division II schools and ended up playing basketball and doing track and field at ENMU. He still holds the record in the hammer throw and discus at ENMU. The tallest kid that I have had at GHS has been 6’5”. I have been blessed with special guards during my coaching career with Jesus Barraza, Isaac Bejerano, Edward Montoya, Alejandro Ramos, Jesse “Lil Puppy” Rodriguez along with several others at Hagerman. Now at Goddard, I have had Noah Waide, Ricky Roybal, Jonah Chavez, and Brandon Montanez
RDR: This is your fourth year have you had to make any adjustments in your coaching?
AM: Definitely. Each year you have to adjust to your team personnel because if you stick with your own personal style it will end up hurting the team. My personal favorite type of basketball is a fast tempo offense and pressure defense. However, I have had to play more zone in the last four years. We play odd man fronts, even man front, match-up zones. Sometimes you have to make adjustments just to survive and stay in games.
RDR: Do you teach a lot in your practices?
AM: Every day is a teaching day. Whether it’s going over the defense and closing the gaps, learning a new offense, or breaking down opponents film, I teach every practice.
RDR: Who are your mentors in the game of basketball and what have they taught you?
AM: I spent a season as an assistant under New Mexico Hall of Fame Coach Rafael Roybal who won multiple championships in Fort Sumner and is now at Tatum. Coach Roybal taught me a lot about how to prepare and be ready for any game situation. Johnny Casaus was another mentor of mine growing up in Clovis. He has so much love for the game and taught me it doesn’t matter how long you’ve coached or been around basketball, you can always learn something new. When I was a younger coach, I went to a lot of clinics, went to different practices, bought many videos to learn the concepts and strategies of the game.
RDR: You’ve won the Blue Trophy twice and played for it another time, what was so special about those teams?
AM: The players on those championship teams put in the time. The 2011 team is part of just 16 basketball teams to finish undefeated in the history of New Mexico basketball. We “played up” a lot that year and beat a very talented Lovington team (who handed state runner-up Goddard one of their few losses that year). We played undefeated Cliff (29-0) in the state championship and won to complete the season 31-0.
The 2014 team wasn’t as talented but those players knew their roles. We had guys who could come off the bench and maintain for us, guys who could defend like crazy for all 32 minutes of the game, and guys who would simply outwork their opponent for rebounds. Our defense won us that championship in 2014. Those kids put in a lot of time in the gym, lifting weights, breaking down film with me, shooting on their own time.
RDR: Some coaches coach a lifetime and never sniff a title shot- what are you able to convey to your players to get them to play at a high level at the right time?
AM: It has been an honor for me to coach the game of basketball. To get to a state championship game everything has to happen at the right time. Kids have got to play defense, make free-throws, have to stay healthy and the ball has to bounce your way. I always wanted to coach in the PIT and have gotten several opportunities to do that. As a coach when I first started, I wrote personal goals down and I have been honored to accomplish everything I have ever wanted to do as a coach. The ultimate goal was to have an undefeated season and win a blue trophy. I always wanted to be the head coach in a New Mexico High School Coaches Association All-Star game in Albuquerque and I have gotten the chance to do that as well. I have been honored and blessed in my 14 years of coaching at the varsity level in New Mexico.
RDR: What do you want a kid that plays for you to take away from his time with you? Any life lessons that you try to impart?
AM: I hope they come away with more life knowledge than basketball knowledge. Be on time (if you are early you are on time and if you are on time you are late), work hard, respect authority always, don’t be a problem in the classroom and honor your family name. I stress that good grades and attitudes are the most important aspects of high school. I stress being involved in your High School and don’t just play one sport. Get involved with multiple sports, join a club or organization.