Below is an excerpt from my story about the introduction of coach Gilbert Cardenas as the Alexander’s new girls’ basketball coach. The rest of the story can be found in Friday’s edition of the Laredo Morning Times.
After 11 years of wandering the assistant coach ranks, Gilbert Cardenas’ first stint as a head coach takes him full-circle back to where it all began.
Cardenas played high school basketball for Alexander and graduated from the school in 1997.
“As a coach, you always want to go back home a bit to where you’re from,” he said. “It’s surreal.”
Cardenas’ career path is lined with familiar faces and familiar places.
After graduating Texas A&M International University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2000, Cardenas began his career as a teacher.
He got his first shot at the coaching ranks in 2003 when United’s head basketball coach at the time, Bobby Cruz, hired him and another unknown Laredoan, Kaleb Canales — current interim head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA — to his first boys’ basketball staff at United.
Nine years later, Cruz is the UISD athletic director and led the search process that again gave Cardenas his first job at a new level of coaching.
“Gil has been with us a long time,” Cruz said. “This is his 11th year with UISD, and he’s been with three different programs and all have been successful and he was a big part of those programs. He had the right experience with boys and girls and the committee felt he had a lot of passion, fire and enthusiasm.
“There are no secrets in basketball, no secrets in coaching. It’s about who gets the best out of their kids and who has them play well and play hard and play together. The committee and our principal felt like coach Cardenas was a good fit for our squad.”
Brimming with energy and full of confidence, Cardenas is exactly where he wants to be.
He thanked Cruz, the former coaches he worked with and the UISD administration that hired him for rolling the dice on him.
Yet, as far as they’re concerned, the hiring of Cardenas was no a gamble at all. No one who knows him is betting against him.
“He’s going to go 100 percent to make sure the girls are ready and make sure the girls have everything they need to continue to have that program on top,” said Alexander boys’ basketball coach Luis Valdez, Cardenas’ boss of the last year. “The girls will really love it.”