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Veteran Coach Getting Noticed

Veteran Coach Getting Noticed
January 10
11:07 2017

Raul Mendoza is the Chinle HS boys head basketball coach. He has been coaching at various high schools in and around the Navajo Nation since the late 1970s, and he takes the job very seriously; not just teaching the boys basketball, but also values that they can carry with them their entire lives.

Coach Mendoza (Photo: NY Times)

Coach Mendoza (Photo: NY Times)

Last week his life’s work of teaching and coaching was the subject of a feature article in the New York Times. Also, last week, he spoke to Lake Powell Communications about the article and about his career.

Interesting, for one year in the late 90s, Coach Mendoza had as his assistant former NBA star Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Though, surprisingly, the coach wasn’t all that satisfied with what the Hall-of-Famer had to offer his boys.

The coach told us that over his close-to 40-years of coaching, kids have changed.

“There are a lot of things I find myself doing because the kids just don’t know,” he said. “One of the biggest things is the work ethic. Kids don’t want to work. They feel they don’t have to work. And I think it’s just a reflection of our society.”

Also, over the past 10 years, kids now have to be taught how to compete and how to work together.

“It’s all the little things that are required now, and kids just don’t understand it,” he added. “So it’s a lot more time consuming.”

Another issue that has bloomed over recent years, according to the coach, is that sometimes the parents don’t understand that their child is a “part” of a team. Basketball is not an individual sport.

“I hate to say this, but most of the parents think their kid is most important, not the team.”

He does talk to the moms and dads to let them know the reverse is actually true.

“I love the kids, but I always tell them that it’s more important that we do what’s right for everybody,” he said.

The player has to fit into the mold of what the “team” is attempting to accomplish, according to the coach.

It was in the late 1990s when Kareem Abdul Jabbar became Mendoza’s assistant for an entire season. But while he says the man is a really “good guy,” he left the coach disappointed because of his inability to relate to the kids.

His point is that Jabbar played in a high-level program in high school (Power Memorial Academy, a Catholic school in NYC) and then played for perhaps the greatest college coach of all time, John Wooden, at UCLA. But he wasn’t able to share his knowledge and experiences with the kids.

“So I was hoping he would share some of these things with the kids and basically get them to realize what kind of a commitment you have to make,” he added. “He wasn’t able to share that with the kids.”
Coach Mendoza admits that perhaps his boys at the time were kind of star-struck with the radio, TV and magazine people always hanging around the gym.

“I’m not saying anything bad about Kareem, he’s a great individual,” added the coach.

At the age of 69, Coach Mendoza believes he’ll coach one more year at Chinle before calling it a career.

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