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El Paso basketball community rallying behind Andress Coach Jim Forbes

EL PASO, Texas - It's always emotional when Chapin and Andress get together on the hardwood, but it was more so on Tuesday night with the man largely responsible for the game's importance not physically present on the sideline.

Andress Head Coach Jim Forbes is currently hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, and the entire El Paso basketball community is rallying behind the local legend.

But though Forbes isn’t physically with his Andress basketball team right now, his players are treating it as such.

“All the time," says Andress senior Isaac Padilla on whether or not his team is talking about Forbes' absence. "Basically Andress is about defense you know. That’s all Coach Forbes right there.”

Players like Kaivon Morgan, who is also Forbes' great-nephew, still picture Forbes in the huddle.

“Like if we’re slow in the game or something to get our heads right, and talk about him," says Morgan. "It gives us energy to talk about him.”

But interim coach Eugene Costello knows that while Forbes's absence adds motivation to the team, his physical presence leaves a void for everyone.

“It’s more than just basketball especially with Coach Forbes and us. It’s about how many lives he’s impacted along the way," says Costello, who averaged double figures while playing for UTEP from 2000-2002.

"That’s why a lot of hearts are heavy on our team, and within the city as well.”

Costello has been an assistant under Forbes for ten years, and is just one of many local coaches who cite Forbes as an influence.

After starring at Bel Air High School, and then for Don Haskins at UTEP, Forbes represented the United States in the 1972 Olympic Games.

His 1972 team famously did not accept their silver medals, after protesting a loss to the Soviet Union.

But while Forbes' coaching success is well-known, the younger community might not be aware of his playing career.

“You could talk to him for a day, a whole day you could follow him around and you’ll never know how great a player he was because he’ll never talk about it," says longtime El Paso basketball organizer Wayne Thornton, a close personal friend of Forbes.

"That’s the way Mr. Forbes is, he does not talk about himself. But he will talk all day and night about those many athletes he’s had.”

Following his playing career Forbes came back to El Paso, where he served as an assistant under Haskins at UTEP.

Forbes then transitioned to the El Paso high school game, where he is the only coach in the modern era to take two schools, both Riverside and Andress, to the State Final Four.

“Jim’s association with basketball in this community goes back 50 years," says UTEP play-by-play broadcaster Jon Teicher.

"Does it get any better for someone than to star as a prep player, a collegian, and then as a coach at both the collegiate and high school levels as Jim Forbes has in his magnificent career?"

Forbes is a coach that transcends the game, because as fans saw at Tuesday's night Andress/Chapin game, his impact goes far beyond the final buzzer.

The underdog Eagles played inspired in the first half at the state-ranked Huskies, and led 22-21 at the half.

"I knew they were going to come out, the DNA is there," said Chapin head Coach Rodney Lewis of Andress' early lead. "It's not going to go away that's culture."

Lewis would know, he is a former Andress assistant under Forbes.

"And then they're playing for Coach Forbes, that's understandable."

In the second half national blue chip recruit KJ Lewis took over, scoring 17 third quarter points to put away the Eagles for a double-digit win.

But after the game, Coach Lewis grabbed the microphone at the scorer's table to deliver a message of prayer for Forbes.

Nate Ryan

Nate Ryan is an ABC-7 sports anchor/reporter.

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