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Burnitzes, Urlacher, Thomas Into Hall

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Urlacher, Thomas Will Also Be Honored

Reed Barnitz and Carol Barnitz, a married couple but separate and equal in their coaching résumés, were introduced on Monday as two of four new Albuquerque/New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

They’ll be joined as honorees at the March 3 Hall of Fame banquet by former UNM greats Brian Urlacher and Kenny Thomas.

The accomplishments of Thomas and Urlacher, who starred in New Mexico at the high school and collegiate levels before moving on to success in the pros, are known to most. They had help along the way from coaches like Jim Hulsman and Rocky Long, whom they’ll follow into the Hall of Fame.

Like Long and Hulsman, the Barnitzes are coaches — the people who put athletes in position to succeed, whether the ultimate success comes in athletics or elsewhere.

The Barnitzes will be the first husband-and-wife duo to be inducted. That they’re to enter the Hall of Fame together is both appropriate and convenient, but the accomplishments of each speak for themselves.

“We’re kind of wondering,” Reed Barnitz said with a smile, “who’s riding whose coattails.”

Carol Barnitz recently retired after 42 years as the head volleyball coach at Manzano High School. Her Monarchs won a state title in 1975, won several district titles and made many state-tournament appearances. She coached basketball and softball as well.

Reed Barnitz has coached swimming and water polo at the high school and club level for a half-century, all but the first three of those years in Albuquerque. Many of his athletes went on to earn college scholarships. One, Heather Moody, won a silver and a bronze Olympic medal in water polo. Another, Kirk Hampleman, was a nine-time All-America swimmer at Auburn.

Retired from APS, Barnitz continues to coach part-time at Bosque School, Tanoan Country Club and in the masters program at the Albuquerque Academy.

The couple met through swimming — Carol as a student, Reed as a coach. But their careers took divergent paths.

“We’ve had completely different communities that we’ve been involved with,” Carol Barnitz said. “… But I think the fact that we both have a great love for kids and a love for athletics and for the kinds of things that sports can do for kids, that’s something that we’ve always had in common.”

Of their success and longevity as coaches, Reed Barnitz said, “You get up every morning with the possibles in your brain, what possibly can be accomplished today. You run out the door to go get it done, and somehow you never lose that.

“That just stays there, and that’s what it is.”

Urlacher, a star at Lovington High School, was a first-team All-America safety at UNM as a senior in 1999. He has played 13 seasons at linebacker with the Chicago Bears, has been selected for eight Pro Bowls and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.

Thomas led Albuquerque High to a state title as a senior in 1995, then helped UNM achieve an unprecedented and unequalled run of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He is the program’s No. 1 all-time rebounder and No. 2 all-time scorer.

During Thomas’ 11-year NBA career, he played for the Houston Rockets, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Sacramento Kings.

With the Sixers in 2003-04, he was one of 11 NBA players to average double figures in both points and rebounds.

Urlacher and Thomas did not attend Monday’s news conference at the New Mexico Activities Association offices, but Thomas participated from Houston via speaker phone.

“This is an honor that I’m really proud of,” he said. “… This is a great opportunity for me to give back to the community.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal