ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A successful high school basketball coach was mysteriously placed on paid administrative leave. He’s accused of slapping a girl in P.E. class.
The suspension has a town split, with some parents saying the coach is a tyrant, however, some of his players are coming to his defense.
His team won the state championship in 2011, now the coach behind the winning Española Valley High school basketball team, Richard Martinez, is at the center of a controversy.
“He reached his hand over and he slapped me in the face,” said a freshman at Española Valley High, who did not want to be identified.
The student said she went to tell Martinez in P.E. class that some girls had punched her in the back during a game of capture the flag, and claims Martinez slapped her.
“I was surprised about it because I didn’t think a teacher would ever do that to somebody,” she said.
Meanwhile, KRQE News 13 has learned parents of some of Martinez’s basketball players have gone to the school with complaints of their own.
“He will outright tell them that they’re not going anywhere in life, and they are not worth a you know what,” said one mom, who also wants to remain anonymous.
The mom told KRQE News 13 her son plays basketball for Española High, and that some players are being threatened for coming forward against Martinez. She said some boys have left the team because they’re tired of all the insults.
Martinez was placed on administrative leave with pay Monday, but the school would not say why. Thursday, Martinez was reinstated.
“I can say it’s an unfortunate situation, but we’re here to support all the students and the community, and I think the community will get stronger because of this,” said Dr. Danny Trujillo, superintendent of Española Public Schools. “The bottom line is both sides are going to come together, and resolve the issues.”
Martinez has a lot of support in Española. The boy’s basketball Facebook page changed its cover photo Tuesday to one that says, “We stand with Richard,” adding “without Martinez, our community wouldn’t have come together and witnessed history.”
But many disagree.
“It’s not right that we allow someone into our kids life every day to talk to them like that,” said one mom. “It almost makes everybody really embarrassed and uncomfortable, when he’s sitting there yelling at a kid like that, you don’t do that.”
She said she’s seen Martinez belittle players and shout obscenities.
Parents KRQE News 13 spoke with said some players are afraid to come forward with their own stories of abuse because Martinez is so popular.
Española police said they’re looking into the girl’s claims that Martinez slapped her, however he has not been charged yet with a crime.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Martinez, who returned our call saying that he did not agree with the story. He declined to comment on camera.