ONE OF SOFTBALL’S MOST SUCCESSFUL COACHES RETIRES
After 37 years, 575 victories, and three state championships, one of the most successful coaches in state history decided to call it a career. Gene Victor announced at the end of this season it was time to retire as head softball coach at Cibola High School.
“It’s just time,” Victor explained. “I always said I wanted to coach until this age, I’m 75, and it’s time to go and let someone else come in with a very good team.”
Victor had 22 postseason appearances in his 37 seasons at Cibola High School and three consecutive state championships (2007-2009). Victor was named National Coach of the Year for 2016-2017.
Victor grew up in Albuquerque, graduating from Rio Grande High School in 1965. He first took over the program at Cibola High School in 1985. “I was an assistant coach to Bill Gracey on the baseball team,” Victor said. “He called me one day and asked if I was interested in the head coaching job with softball. He knew I played fastpitch softball and it might be a good opportunity.”
Victor’s softball career didn’t get off to a strong start. “I remember we only won six games that first year, but one of those was against number one West Mesa,” he said. Victor went on to become one of the most successful softball coaches in state history with an overall record of 575 wins and 316 losses.
“I’ve had so many memorable moments over my career,” Victor reflected. “The first state championship game, that’s one I’ll always remember. I remember all the hard work we had put in to get there. The tournament was up in Farmington and when we got there, one of my best players (Latainna Eltsosie) stepped off the bus and sprained her ankle really bad. She played, though. She was tough.”
“Missy Martinez was on those three teams,” Victor added. “She was a big part of my highlights. It was pretty tough when she passed away this past year because of COVID. She was only 30 and hadn’t had a chance to live her life yet. She was my assistant for a couple years, too. Getting inducted into the New Mexico Baseball/Softball Hall of Fame and the Cibola High School Hall of Fame also meant a lot to me.”
Victor is stepping away from the game, but leaving behind a long-lasting legacy. “I want all my former players to remember those times as good times, you’re only in high school once,” he said. “I also want them to know how much I supported them, and I hope I was able to teach them life lessons. That’s what it’s all about, preparing young men and women for when they move on.”