Coach left all those he touched a few days ago, and I have since struggled to align my heart, soul, and brain in a way which can artfully articulate my feelings about a man whose contribution to this world reaches galaxies beyond what words can justly describe.
Unless you have experienced the thawing and warmth of your heart when coach would tell you he loved you, or the twist of a smile on your face when he would exert a belly-laugh, or the welling of your eyes when observing him make you or another feel so important – words can ring a bit hollow compared to having felt those overwhelming emotions.
But words are what I have, and words are what I want to find. Words which attempt to explain the immeasurable contribution he made to my life, and words which may inspire one of us to make others feel the way coach made me feel about myself, others, and the world we occupy together.
He was already in the coaching Hall of Fame when he came out of retirement to scratch that itch once again. He had nothing to prove. All he wanted to do was give of himself to others. Those of us who work in sports understand the yearning to be part of the fray. His innate ability to orchestrate creative ways of getting people to come together around a common cause will always blow my mind. He took the most divergent cross-section of people from all over the world and fastened us together as a healthily functioning family – with an ease and common touch which you only see in the movies.
He coached us at the dawn of digital photography. After hearing of his passing, I excavated all of my drawers, closets, boxes, and cases where I thought a picture of us together would reside. I knew I had seen some in the past, whether they be from our time together in Hawaii, Denver, Phoenix, or anywhere throughout California. Alas, I unexpectedly found the picture above. One which illustrates coach’s majestic unselfishness, and his intrinsic motivation to understand the whole person, not just the athlete. Look at him here. Leaned in and still learning. Proud. He was so committed to understanding me deeper.
Coach was perhaps the biggest advocate for me fully embarking on a risky music career which, at times, clashed harshly with my career as an athlete. He showed me how I could use the template he created and laid out for our basketball family of love, commitment, passion, inspiration, and faith, and channel it directly into my evolution as a songwriter.
We clashed at times over certain things. Chiefly, my physical appearance. Especially my proclivity toward not shaving every day. He drew a line and didn’t mince words in communicating what he wanted from me, and how certain core values he possessed were non-negotiable. He was willing to stand by his conviction until hell froze over. His expectation of us adhering to his definition of professionalism was unyielding.
Little did I know at the time of this picture which, I believe, was taken in 2009, that I would rely so heavily on his influence and teachings when leading my own groups of young men as a future head basketball coach. I never even thought about coaching as a profession until I met him.
In closing, I’d be remised to forgo acknowledging the significance and symbolism I find in the correlation between coach’s passing and the passing of our beloved teammate Devougn “Trinny” Lamont three summers ago. Trinny was coach Trumbo’s favorite player. It’s human nature that certain individuals attract others in a more profound and destined way. The irony that these two beautiful souls are the first to have left us, and in sequence, is something that makes me smile, cry, and contemplate the greater forces at work in our universe.
Coach Trumbo had a very moving speech at Trinny’s memorial, and as all of us gathered that hot September day, we promised each other that we would do a better job of staying connected to each other, and that we did not want to only meet up for events such as funerals and memorials. We vowed to band tight as the family that coach Trumbo created for us.
Regardless of whether or not we have done that, I believe that coach would relish the idea of all of us who he has touched and connected through his power and grace to assemble and share the love we have for him and each other – just like Trinny would have gotten a kick out of bringing all us together on that profound September day.
The only things in life you own are the things you love. I love you, coach. I’ll pay it forward.