Alamo Navajo hoops coach Pino dies from virus - Albuquerque Journal

Alamo Navajo hoops coach Pino dies from virus

Marcus Pino, top left, poses for a team photo on Feb. 14, 2020, the night he won his 100th career game as Alamo Navajo head boys basketball coach. Pino has died from complications related to the coronavirus. (Courtesy of Barbara Gordon, Alamo Navajo athletic director)

COVID-19 has claimed the life of one of New Mexico’s high school coaches.

Marcus Pino, for the last seven years the head boys basketball coach at Alamo Navajo, died early Thursday evening. He was 42.

“He loved basketball,” his mother Marie said in a telephone interview. “He was all basketball.”

Pino’s mother and brother, Ira, confirmed to the Journal on Friday that Marcus Pino’s death was the result of complications from the coronavirus. He leaves behind a large family.

“Anything family-oriented, he was always the first one there,” Ira Pino said. “Whenever anybody needed something, he was usually the first one to call.”

Marcus Pino was born in Socorro, but remained in and around that region of central New Mexico his entire life, Ira Pino said. Marcus attended and played basketball for nearby Magdalena High.

“In my mind, he was the ideal players’ coach. He loved those boys,” said an emotional Steers coach Jory Mirabal, who described himself as a good friend. Magdalena is 25 miles south of Alamo Navajo, and the two schools were district rivals.

“Marcus loved basketball and he loved those kids,” Mirabal said. “He’s gonna be greatly missed.”

Buster Mabrey, executive director of the New Mexico High School Coaches Association, tweeted the news of Pino’s passing on Friday afternoon.

“Coach Pino was a friend of all coaches. He was at every clinic. He always had a smile and would make a point to always say, ‘Hello, and if you need anything, let me know,’ ” Mabrey wrote in his tweet, which also said Pino died of COVID-19.

Alamo Navajo athletic director Barbara Gordon said Pino had fallen ill in the last few days. “It was pretty quick,” she said. Family members said they were not yet sure where he had contracted the coronavirus.

Pino was married with five children, and recently had become a grandfather for the first time. He was in charge of the community’s water department since 2007, Ira Pino said. He was not a teacher at the school.

“They had gone through several coaches, and they had a tough time getting someone to understand (the program),” Mirabal said. “It was a natural fit for him to be out there. I don’t think anybody could have had the success he had out there at Alamo.”

The Cougars went 16-13 last season but did not qualify for the state tournament. Pino won his 100th career game on Valentine’s Day, in overtime against Jemez Valley.

Pino became Alamo Navajo’s head coach in the 2013-14 season. When the Cougars qualified for state in 2016-17, it was the first postseason bid in the school’s history.

“As long as I’ve been here at Magdalena, he’s the only coach that’s been able to get through to those kids,” Mirabal said. “His teams always competed with class.”

Mirabal – whom Gordon called a mentor to Pino – remembered his friend as a man with a great sense of humor.

“He was probably one of the funniest guys you’ve ever been around,” he said. “He always had a comeback and a comment for everybody’s joke. He always had a smile on his face.”

Said Gordon: “He found humor in a lot of stuff. He was a pretty jovial guy. A good guy.”

The family said services for Pino were still pending. Pino had five siblings.


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