EDINBURG — Carlos Ramos’ eyes are intense, piercing. When they clamp down, averting them is no easy task.
When asked if he would consider himself an intense person or coach, it took him no time to respond. One could actually see his pupils shrink, the intensity rising a notch.
“Yes,” he said. There was no need to say anything else, no reason to ask anymore.
There’s a cliché that says eyes are a window into the soul. For Ramos, he wears his soul for all to see — what one see is what one gets. Surprises are few and far between. “I’m intense, but I’m consistent,” he said. It’s that intensity, that competitive spirit and soul-bearing personality that has turned the Edinburg Economedes basketball program into one with annual high expectations. It’s also a reason that Ramos has been named The Monitor’s Boys Basketball Coach of Year.
Not only is Ramos intense, but that intensity is with him all the time, from home — “My wife will tell me, ‘Don’t talk to me like one of your kids’” — to his team — “Sometimes the kids think I’m a jerk, but I tell them ‘hey that’s my job” — to his life’s quest — “My first year, I even questioned God if this was the right path.”
He has since answered that question as the Jaguars have improved on the number of wins each since his first four years ago. That first year is when he questioned his decision — take the administration route or the coaching route. He has never played sports in school. His parents were devout and charismatic Protestants who believed that anything that took more time than serving God was not worth doing. It may have been that holding him back from sports put a stronger desire into him and gave him the talent, skill and knowledge to view the sport from a different perspective.
No matter the case, the Jaguars went from seven wins in the 2015-16 season to 22 wins (‘16-17), 24 wins (‘17-18) and, ultimately, 26 wins (‘2018-19). With those victories came a share of the district title with district powerhouse Edinburg Vela, and a playoff victory.
It was the first basketball postseason victory in the 19-year history of Economedes.
“The kids did well. I was very happy for the kids and for the community,” Ramos said. “It’s only happened once in football. It would’ve been nice to win the district outright, but I don’t mind sharing. We’ll take it.”
For the past two years Ramos had four pieces of a very successful puzzle with Johnny Barrientos, Angel Salinas, Raul Alanis and Rick Chapa. His biggest role was to find those missing puzzled pieces that complete the big picture.
“I tell the kids that is really what my job is: to put them in the right place, where they can perform their best and give the team the best opportunity to win,” he said. “Yeah, I’ll push them and be hard on them, but they know what to expect from me all the time.”
Ramos spent time as an assistant coach and a JV coach in the Donna school district before moving to Economedes, where he climbed the traditional pole from freshman light coach to freshman dark then JV dark. Then, the call came to become the head coach.
“Was I ready for it? No I wasn’t ready,” he said. “I am not a risk taker, I don’t like it. But I always wanted to do this and I would pray all the time. Which route I should take: administration or this route? I guess God wanted me to take this path, and I sure am glad He has been on our side.
“It also helps to have a praying mother.”
Ramos talks about how it took him 11 years to get a four-year degree because, “I was doing crazy things and all sorts of jobs before I finally got my act straight.”
That was three years as a kindergarten teacher. He attributes a lot of what he learned with those 5-year-olds as a reason for his recent success with the Jaguars.
“I feel I gained the ability to learn how to treat 20 individuals and get them on the same page, how to deal with one person because he’s like that or another person because he’s like this,” said Ramos, who is also the football team’s running backs coach. “Maybe because I was never allowed to do it (play sports) is why I’ve become a student of the game.”
Ramos lived on “the east side of town,” which is Edinburg. His dad was born in Mexico and had a third-grade education. He said his dad pushed him and his four siblings hard and they earned bachelor degrees (four earned masters degrees). “I tell the kids if they can do it — even though it took a while — they can do it. I think I can relate to them and because of that you can be a little tougher on these kids. Their skin is a little thicker.”
“I will not quit on them and I will continue to push them,” he added. “They know that and now they’ve come to expect it and this program has learned to expect to win. I don’t like to lose and I learned I was going to have to deal with that after the first year.”