Portales resident Fabian Lopez is slated to receive the National Federation Officials Association Official of the Year award for girls basketball in the state of New Mexico later this month.
The award will be presented at the New Mexico Officials Association awards banquet on July 21 at the Marriott Pyramid Hotel in Albuqueqrue.
The 50-year-old Lopez, who retired last year after spending 30 years as a supervisor and buyer for the purchasing department at Eastern New Mexico University, is heading into his 10th year of working boys and girls basketball games in New Mexico, working mostly with officials from Clovis. He’s also getting ready to start his fifth season officiating high school football games.
Born in Las Vegas, N.M., his family moved to Portales when he was less than a year old.
Were you surprised to receive this award?
Yeah, I was. I was chosen to work the state tournament this year — that was one of my goals — and I received a letter (for the award) about a month later. I was really pleasantly surprised, but I wouldn’t be where I am without the guys I work with.
How did you get into refereeing?
I started out doing Church League (basketball), and I officiated at the Little Dribblers. I kind of enjoyed it, so I looked into getting into it (more).
What do you enjoy about it?
I really like (basketball) and I like being around the kids and watching them develop. And I like working with the coaches. It’s nice when coaches say (before a game), ‘Man, I’m glad we’ve got you tonight.’
People don’t realize officiating is a job, and I take a lot of pride in it. What people look for is consistency.
Is there a game, or a moment, that stands out for you in your career?
To be honest with you, I’ve had some great games, but the state tournament was a goal. Those are the best teams out there, either at The Pit (in Albuquerque) or (Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana) Star Center.
How much longer to you intend to referee?
A lot of people ask me that, and my answer is how long my body and my knees hold up and I’m able to get up and down the court. I can’t say five years, 10 years, 15 years — I take it one year at a time. It’s a lot of wear and tear on your knees.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner