Coach Jim Forbes Has Died – He Was An El Paso Icon And My Middle School Teacher
Coach Jim Forbes had a huge impact on my life, one that I don't think he even knew about, and I wasn't the only one. This morning on the air I did the story about his death and got a number of messages and emails from former students who told me that he was one of the reasons they loved going to school. Some loved being on his teams. Others told me that being in one of his classes made them better students. I was one of those students.
DIDN'T PUT UP WITH MY NONSENSE
I had no idea who Coach Forbes was when I was in his class at MacArthur in junior high. I was a pain in the butt eighth grader who thought the world revolved around me, hard to believe, I know. Coach Forbes took a bunch of bratty kids and turned us into students. He didn't put up with excuses for not doing homework or classwork. He didn't believe that anyone was not able to do well in school and he pushed us to excel. He called me Ms. Martinez and his voice and demeanor made me want to not disappoint him, so I worked at doing well in his class.
As I got older and came to understand who Coach Forbes was and his place in history, I was sorry that I was kind of a brat in his class. Years later when I ran into him at a UTEP game I told him that and he laughed and said I'm just glad you grew out of it. When I got the job at KISS he told me that he was proud of me. He couldn't have known what that meant to me. Knowing that I had done well and that he noticed meant the world to me. There are only a few people in your life whose good opinion you value. Coach Jim Forbes was one of those people for me. I'm so grateful that I knew him and that he guided so many El Paso students in his years of teaching. We are all better for it.
EARLY BASKETBALL LIFE
Coach Forbes was just 69 years old and starred at Bel Air High and then at UTEP (1971-74) for Coach Haskins. He was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team, that was cheated out of their gold medals in Munich by the Russians, giving the U.S. it’s first ever loss in Olympic play. Haskins was an assistant coach. Forbes and his teammates would refuse their silver medals in protest. In 1974 he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the fourth round of the NBA draft, but never played professionally. He’d go on to be an assistant to coach Haskins at UTEP before finding amazing success as a high school coach in El Paso.
HIGH SCHOOL B-BALL
In 1995 he coached Riverside High to the State Final Four, falling in the semifinals to eventual state champ San Antonio East Central, which finished the season 35-0 and is still regarded as one of the best teams in Texas high school basketball history. Forbes would return to the Final Four 20 years later with Andress High, making him one of the most accomplished coaches in El Paso high school basketball history.
“What he does is he builds great relationships with kids,” Eastlake football coach Ruben Rodriguez, the point guard on Forbes’ 1995 Final Four team at Riverside, told my husband Darren back in 2015 after Forbes coached Andress to the Final Four. “He changes lives and that’s his priority and when he went out to the Northeast (to Andress), I think his priority was to change the environment out there.”
Rest in peace, Coach Forbes. You will be terribly missed.