SANTA FE – Longtime Santa Fe-area basketball coach Robert “Bobby” Rodriguez died Monday morning after a short bout with a severe form of leukemia.
Rodriguez, who led Santa Fe, Pojoaque and St. Michael’s high schools to third-place finishes in state tournaments, was 75.
Last year, Rodriguez was inducted into the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor after compiling a 321-172 record at the three schools.
“I appreciated the outpouring of love and support not just from St. Michael’s but also Santa Fe and Pojoaque,” said association Executive Director Buster Mabrey. “The outpouring of support throughout the whole process. We packed the place, there was standing room only. We ran out of tickets.”
Rodriguez and his wife Imelda had nine children – with two, David Rodriguez at Santa Fe High and Ernest Rodriquez at Desert Academy following him into high school coaching. He had 26 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Rodriguez was a tough, no-nonsense coach who was able to get the most out of his players, said son David.
“He was intense,” David said. “He was driven. He was a perfectionist, and he drove his teams hard. He expected everybody to give their best because that’s what he gave.”
Bobby Rodriguez played three years of varsity ball at St. Mike’s earning All-State honors all three seasons. He attended St. Michaels’ College, where he earned multiple All-Conference selections and led his team to a Frontier Conference Championship, before beginning his teaching and coaching career at Harrington Junior High.
“To be a coach, you have to be a teacher,” Rodriguez said in a video played at his Hall of Honor induction . “A teacher of the game. A teacher of the fundamentals. And I found that out that if your kids are fundamentally sound, you’re going to win your share of games.”
The game that always stood out for David Rodriquez came during the opening round of the 1984 state tournament when the underdog Demons faced mighty Hobbs, which was ranked 10th nationally. Santa Fe trailed by 12 points in the waning minutes when Bobby Rodriquez called a timeout.
David, a Demons assistant at the time, said his dad put on quite the coaching display.
“He did more coaching in those 45 seconds than most of us do in a lifetime,” he recalled. “He convinced those guys that they could win.” And that’s exactly what the Demons did, pulling out a 1-point victory “that’s one of the biggest upsets in New Mexico state tournament history,” David Rodriguez said.
He was twice 4A coach of the year with Santa Fe and touched countless lives, his son said.
“When word got out that he was sick, we had so many of his former players coming in here,” his son said. “He was hard on his players but he was also the first one to give them a hug and tell them that he loved them. He was a father figure to a lot of these guys.”
But Rodriguez in the Hall of Honor video said it was players that gave back to him. “The success I had was because of the kinds of kids I had to coach,” he said. “And there’s a special place in my heart for them of every one of them.”
Funeral arrangements are still being developed, David said, although services should be at Cristo Rey Parish sometime this week.