Yvonne Sanchez will enter her fourth season at the helm of the University of New Mexico women's basketball program for the 2014-15 season, which will be her 15th season at the school.
In 2013-14, Lobos guard Antiesha Brown earned all-conference accolades for a second straight season. Brown was an All-Mountain West honorable-mention award winner after being voted the MW Sixth Player of the Year the season before. Senior Sara Halasz also became the 13th Lobo in program history to finish her career with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds by season's end. UNM led the Mountain West in attendance for a 15th consecutive season with an average home crowd of 5,914 fans.
Sanchez is coming off a 2012-13 season that saw a six-win improvement from her first season, and the Lobos made program history as well. The 17-14 mark posted by New Mexico in Sanchez's second season included the program's first-ever four-game Mountain West road winning streak. The Cherry & Silver went on to defeat UNLV in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament, which marked the seventh straight season that New Mexico has won at least one game in the conference tournament. The season was also highlighted by a 65-61 victory over Texas Tech in The Pit. It was the first win against the Lady Red Raiders in four seasons.
A pair of Lobos went on to garner all-conference accolades in 2012-13. Brown became the first Lobo ever to win the MW Sixth Player of the Year award while Caroline Durbin was named to the All-Mountain West Second Team. Durbin also repeated as a Capital One Academic All-American, the first Lobo in team history to repeat that accomplishment.
The 2011-12 season was a season of firsts for Coach Sanchez and company. Despite finishing the regular season with a 9-19 record overall, the Lobos would never surrender. They turned the 2012 Mountain West Conference Tournament upside down advancing all the way to the championship game as the tournament's seventh seed. Their run through the conference's postseason tournament saw UNM become the first-ever seventh seed to beat a second seeded team. They also became the first-ever seventh seeded team to advance to the championship game of the conference tournament.
Along the way, Coach Sanchez's players picked up the first individual awards of the Yvonne Sanchez era. Caroline Durbin was named First Team All-Mountain West. She also became the first Capital One Academic All-American First Team member in program history. Porsche Torrance garnered Third Team All-Conference honors while being named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. The 2011-12 New Mexico Lobos also finished tenth in the country in attendance. That ranking was first in the Mountain West and among all non-BCS conference teams.
The New Mexico head coach also shares a special distinction with Wyoming's Joe Legerski in Mountain West history. The two are the only coaches to have been a part of every MW Tournament since the conference's initial season of 1999-2000.
Yvonne Sanchez was named the fifth head women's basketball coach in UNM history on April 22, 2011. The long-time assistant coach under previous head coach Don Flanagan was selected after a national candidate search. Sanchez had spent eleven seasons, including three as associate head coach, along side Coach Flanagan as he became the winningest coach in program history.
"After conducting a national search, we realized that the best candidate was right here at the University of New Mexico," said Paul Krebs, vice president of athletics. "Yvonne is passionate about Lobo basketball, she brings great energy, and is an outstanding recruiter. Her reputation within the coaching community is outstanding, and she is the right person to lead this program into the future."
Sanchez joined the Lobo staff in 2000 and immediately saw the program surge to new heights, winning 20 games in each of her nine seasons as an assistant coach. In her first year, 2000-01, the Lobos advanced to the championship game of the WNIT before advancing to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments, winning two regular season Mountain West titles and five MW tournament championships. With Sanchez on the Lobo sidelines, she helped build UNM's reputation for defending The Pit, going 155-44 in eleven years, a .779 winning percentage. The Lobos won double-digit home games in ten of her elevens seasons as assistant and associate head coach, including a three-year stretch where the Lobos were a stellar 45-5.
Over eleven seasons as an assistant at New Mexico, Sanchez has also helped coach seven First Team All-MWC performers, ten Second-Team members, and nine Third-Team members. Also in that time, the Lobos had six players earn honorable mention honors, three earn All-Defense and two players earned Mountain West Newcomer of the Year honors.
In addition the Lobos earned 33 MWC Player of the Week awards, 82 Mountain West All-Academic selections, six Academic All-District selections, one Academic All-American, and one Kodak All-American. Five times the Lobos were recognized by the WBCA for ranking in the Top 25 nationally in team grade point average, and twice the team finished the season in the national top 25 polls as well during Sanchez's eleven years on Don Flanagan's staff.
"I am thrilled to be the next head coach at the University of New Mexico," said Sanchez. "Coach Flanagan has been such a mentor and positive influence in my life, and has prepared me for this opportunity. Being a native New Mexican, the passion and pride I have for this university and athletic department is tremendous. I am honored and humbled to take over a program of such success and tradition, and I am ready to lead it back to one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference."
Coach Sanchez's coaching career spans 19 years. In the time before her eleven seasons in Albuquerque, her career includes stops as an assistant coach at San Diego State (1999-2000) and New Mexico State (1993-1999). Sanchez got her coaching start in 1989 at Academy of Our Lady of Peace, a high school in San Diego. She led the squad to CIF championships in 1990 and 1992, and was named the 1990 San Diego prep coach of the year, despite not having an indoor facility. During her tenure at OLP, the Pilots compiled a 76-39 (.661) record. The 45-year old Sanchez is a 1989 graduate of U.S. International University in San Diego, where she was a four-year letter winner. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology. The Albuquerque native was a three-year starter under Don Flanagan at Eldorado High School from 1982-85, during which time the Eagles won a state-record 74 consecutive games and two 4A state titles. She was twice named to the all-state team and was also tabbed as the state 4A Player of the Year by the Albuquerque Journal.
What They Are Saying About Yvonne Sanchez
Kelly Graves, head women's basketball coach, University of Oregon, former UNM player (UNM '88)
Steve Alford, head men's basketball coach, UCLA Bruins
Charli Turner Thorne, head women's basketball coach, Arizona State
Debbie Antonelli, ESPN/Westwood One women's basketball analyst
Sherri Coale, head women's basketball coach, Oklahoma Sooners