COVID-19 claims beloved basketball coach
Marcus Pino Sr., the beloved Alamo Navajo boys’ basketball coach, complained of breathing problems on April 9 and was whisked to an Albuquerque hospital.
The 42 year-old father of five died a week later of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“He was really loved by the community and he’s going to be missed,” said Marie Pino, Marcus’ mother. “He was a very loving and generous person. He’s the first person to help you if you needed help.”
To her knowledge, Marie said her son did not have any underlying health conditions that made him a high risk of dying from the virus.
“That’s the part we don’t understand,” she said. “He had no heath issues that we knew of. There was nothing wrong with him.”
With no known health issues, Marie said they were hoping that Marcus would come out of this but when he arrived at the Albuquerque hospital she received a text from her son stating that he was going to be placed on a ventilator.
“That was the last time we heard from him,” she said. “We didn’t even get to see him. They told us we couldn’t go up there.”
Pino, who was avid hunter, passed away on Apr. 16 and the following day Buster Mayberry, the executive director of the New Mexico High School Coaches Association, expressed his condolences on Facebook.
“Coach Pino was a staple at the annual Coaches Clinic and high school sporting events across the southwest and northwest,” the post stated. “He always had a smile, never met a coach he didn’t respect, and was always first up to help other coaches … We will miss you, Coach!”
Longtime Tohatchi coach Fern Spencer chimed in and wrote, “My condolences to his family, athletes, and the community of Alamo. We will miss him at our cross-country meets where he would greet us with his smile and ask how are you. Rest In Peace my friend.”
The family is unsure where Marcus got exposed to the disease although they have their suspicions.
“He worked for the Alamo water department since 2007 and I’m thinking he got the virus when he took some water samples to Albuquerque,” she said. “I think that is where he got it from but we really don’t know.”
As a member of the 1995 New Mexico Class 1A third-place state team at nearby Magdalena High School, Marie said her son got into the coaching profession at Alamo Navajo after watching the high school program go through some tough years.
“He applied for that position and he did that because the Cougars were always losing and he didn’t want to see that even though he graduated from Magdalena,” she said. “He didn’t want the Cougars to be looked down on so he wanted them to be good basketball players.”
Alamo Navajo athletic director Barbara Gordon said Pino started out as a junior high coach and for the past seven seasons he headed the varsity program.
“He loved the game and he loved learning about the game,” Gordon said. “He loved learning from other coaches and he was a really good friend of Jory Mirabal of Magdalena. He sought out other coaches and he learned from them.”
On Feb. 14 this past season, Pino hit a milestone by picking up the 100th win of his career in a 93-92 thriller over Jemez Valley that went into OT.
“We had played three tough games in that one week and I was teasing him about him working his magic,” said Gordon, while noting that Pino’s fiancée, Delfina Monte, made a cake for him to celebrate the occasion.
According to Marie, her son was supposed to marry Monte in December. The couple has two children, Kayleen and Azelea Pino.
Pino has three older children – Marcus Pino Jr., Maile Pino and Tashawn Pino – with the oldest making him a grandpa.
“He really loved being a grandfather,” Marie said. “Every time he got paid he would buy things for (his granddaughter).”
Pino also survived by his father, Ira Pino Sr., and his siblings Cheryl Ganadonegro, Ivonne Boggs, Anderson Pino Sr., Ira Pino Jr. and Natalie Pino.
Marie said the family is still coping but things are getting better thanks to outpouring of support.
“We’re doing OK but when he passed we all fell apart,” she said. “We were devastated, but with all the people sending their prayers and condolences it’s gotten better.”
Marie said her son’s funeral expense has been paid for and they will have a graveside service on Friday with only immediate family present.
The Pino matriarch said losing her son was tragic but she’s hoping the recent fatalities will make people from the rez to take the novel coronavirus seriously.
“Some of these people don’t follow the regulations that are put in place,” she said. “They don’t wear the mask and they’re not listening. I’m hoping they take this virus serious because it can affect anyone.”