FARMINGTON – Marv Sanders, the longtime Farmington High boys basketball coach, will be inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.
“It’s very meaningful after you put 50 years into coaching,” Sanders said of the induction. “It’s a job that I loved, and I couldn’t have asked for better situations or schools to have worked for, especially Farmington. I was there for 23 years, and it was a wonderful stay.”
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Sunday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Sanders coached at Farmington from 1980 to 2003, spending 23 years leading the Scorps. In his second year, the Scorps finished the 1981-82 season 26-0, beating Eldorado 58-56 for the state title.
Sanders said the 1982 title — which was Farmington’s first — and the run to winning the 1975 state title at Silver are the two memories that stand out the most in his five decades of coaching.
“I had two memorable games that come to my mind frequently,” Sanders said. “The first is the St. Michael’s game when I was with Silver. I was with Silver, and we beat one of the really good teams (St. Mike’s) and went on to win the state tournament.
“The other one is the finals of the ’82 season. We went undefeated, and it was the first state championship at Farmington, and my son (Mike) made two free throws to contribute to the win with five seconds left in the game. Those two games stand out in my mind because of the way they were played and what they meant to the schools.”
Sanders won four state titles in three different classes: two in 4A at FHS in ’82 and ’86, one 3A title at Silver in 1975 and one B title at Hatch Valley in 1964. The titles at Silver and Hatch were also the first the two programs had ever won.
In his final year at FHS, Sanders guided the Scorps to the state title game in 2003, losing to Kirtland Central. He also led Lovington to the state finals in 1979 and Silver to the finals in 1972.
“Coach Sanders, I’m always telling the kids that he is a legend, not only in the Four Corners area but throughout the state. He’s won three titles in three different classes,” Farmington head coach Paul Corley said. “And he’s not only a great coach but a great man.”
Farmington’s annual invitational tournament is now called the Marv Sanders Invitational in honor of what Sanders did as a coach throughout the state. This past season at the tourney, when the Scorps won the title for the first time since 2003, Sanders was in attendance and talked with the team after winning the title.
“Every time he comes to the tournament, he’s the most humble man and doesn’t have a lot to say, but he actually came into our locker room this year and talked to the team after the championship game,” Corley said. “He commended the players on a great tournament and the way they played, and he mentioned that they played ‘Scorpion basketball,’ which he really liked.”
Sanders is credited with 787 wins as a boys head coach, ranking him third all time in New Mexico behind Ralph Tasker (1,122) and Pete Shock (854).
A few years after retiring from the head boys position at Farmington, Sanders rejoined the coaching ranks, taking over as the girls head coach at Capitan.
According to articles from the Ruidoso News on Dec. 13, 2007, and The Daily Times on Dec. 16, 2007, Sanders notched his 800th career win with a 50-31 victory over Coronado on Nov. 30, 2007.
According to the Capitan’s MaxPreps page, the team added 12 more wins in the 2007-08 season to bring his win total to 812, then combined for 52 wins during the next four seasons to bring Sanders’ win total to 864 in both boys and girls divisions.
During his coaching career that spanned five decades, Sanders said the biggest difference to occur in the game of basketball has been the addition of the 3-point line.
“It revolutionized defenses and changed offenses,” Sanders said. “I know it took me several years to feel comfortable with it.”
Originally from Indiana, Sanders accepted a scholarship at Valparaiso University, but left the school after his freshman year and transferred to Western New Mexico University. While at WNMU, Sanders was named to two all-conference teams, and in 2000, he was inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
Sanders now resides in Ruidoso, and while he hasn’t coached in a few years, he still believes high school basketball in New Mexico is the best around.
“I don’t think people realize how good basketball is here and what fine coaches we have in this state,” he said. “We had our tournament (at Farmington) and had teams from North Carolina, Mississippi and Missouri, and we could play with them, and most of the time beat them. Basketball here in New Mexico is as good as there is anywhere.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.