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‘A lot of fight left in me’: Former KC star accepts head coach duties


After 19 years as an assistant coach, Sharon Max accepted the head girls’ basketball post at Menaul High School.

The Albuquerque faith-based, college preparatory school has a student body of 192 students from grades 6 to 12.

Max, who played collegiately at Eastern New Mexico University, took over the program last August.

The former Kirtland Central star got her start serving as the assistant for former Portales coach Brenda Gomez.

After graduating from Eastern New Mexico, she was hired onto the Cibola High coaching staff in Albuquerque under then-coach Lori Mabrey for 16 seasons.

“I’ve been blessed to be a part of a great mid school program, a great high school program and a great college program,” Max said. “And, you know, coaching under Lori Mabrey and Brenda Gomez have really influenced my life. There are countless others that have influenced my life, so they have basically led me to see what I can do here.

“I’m still an unproven head coach right now,” she added. “We’ll see if any of that has really helped me along the way, but I think it has.”

Why Menaul?

Special to the Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Sharon Max accepted her first head coaching job with the Menaul girls’ basketball team last August. The former Kirtland Central standout is looking for her team to be contenders at the 2A level.

Max applied for the head coaching position at Cibola when Mabrey retired, but she didn’t get it.

After contemplating her next move, Max decided to take over the Menaul program.

“I was debating on what I wanted to do,” she said. “I thought about retiring from coaching, but I still have a lot of fight left in me, and I still have a little bit of fire as well, so I stuck with it.”

And although Menaul is a much smaller program compared to Cibola and Portales, Max felt it would be a good fit for her.

“My daughters actually played with ABYL team with some of the Menaul kids,” said Max, who added her daughters play at Cibola High School.

“I’ve seen them as seventh graders,” she said, “so I knew they were some hard-working kids, so I thought, why not Menaul?

“They play hard and they have a lot of heart,” she said. “Everyone that comes on the floor gives me everything they have until the final buzzer and that basically makes them special.”

Max said she’s working with a young group. And while there is going to be some growing pains, she excited about the future of the program, which plays at the 2A level.

“They’re still growing and with this group there is no ceiling on far they can get because they’re very coachable,” she said. “I still work at Cibola as a PE teacher and I really enjoy coming to practice every single day. They’re an amazing group and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

“I’m trying to build a program there, so it’s not something that I’m just going to do just for right now,” she added. “This is long term and I believe they can have the same opportunity as the next person.”

Rehoboth Christian tournament

The Max-coached team took part of the Rehoboth Christian girls’ tournament two weeks ago.

The Lady Panthers went 1-2 during the three-day tournament, as they came up short to Zuni (41-39) and Rehoboth (47-35).

“It’s nice to come back and face teams like Zuni and Rehoboth,” Max said. “I went to Kirtland Central and the rivalry with Shiprock was always there.

“You know the Native American teams always brings something to the table,” she said. “Basketball is alive and well on the reservation. I was one of those kids and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Work in progress

At 6-4 overall the Panthers are still grasping the concepts and ideas that Max is presenting them.

They’re not quite there yet, but the first-year coach likes the improvements she’s seeing.

“We’re still a work in progress and, you know, that’s kind of my doing because I didn’t commit really quickly,” she said. “With them not having a summer, of course, we’re behind. Summertime is when they get better and if they commit to the summer in June and July, I believe we’re gonna be contenders next year.

“That’s my hope,” she added. “I mean, I played at Kirtland Central, and I coached at Cibola High School and the state championship is always the goal.”

In the early 1990s, Max won a state title three times with her high school teammates. At Cibola, she was part of the 2015 state championship team.

In four other seasons, Cibola played in the big schools state title game. She was also an assistant coach on the 2005 state runner-up team at Portales.

After graduating from Eastern New Mexico, Max said she accepted the position at Cibola to serve as Mabrey’s assistant.

“Lori was my freshman coach in high school and she’s helped me tremendously,” Max said. “She really helped me along the way and she’s more like family to me. I devoted my time with her because I believed in her system. I believed in what she wanted to accomplish.

“You have to have a really good assistant coach to build a really great program,” she said. “And no way was I going to leave her. We’ve basically signed six to eight Division I players.”

Some of the players they signed included Florida State guard Amaya Brown and Corbyn Cunningham, a Division II player who is averaging 25 points per game.

“That is what I want to build here at Menaul,” Max said. “I want to see these kids if they want to play basketball somewhere I want to get them there.”

About The Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at


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