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Originally published November 2, 2009 at 4:17 PM | Page modified November 2, 2009 at 11:46 PM

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Obituary

O'Dea coach Phil Lumpkin found dead at age 57

Phil Lumpkin, a former NBA player who won five Class 3A state boys basketball championships as O'Dea's coach, was found dead Monday morning, a school official confirmed.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Phil Lumpkin, longtime boys basketball coach at O'Dea High School and a former NBA player, died over the weekend, principal Brother Dominic Murray confirmed Monday morning.

The news was announced on the school's Web site.

School administrators were concerned when Mr. Lumpkin, 57, didn't come to school or answer phone calls Monday morning after being diagnosed with pneumonia and missing work last week. His body was found by school officials Monday morning.

"It's tough," said Franklin boys basketball coach Jason Kerr, who spent five years as an assistant under Mr. Lumpkin. "I spent about 2 ½ hours up at O'Dea today and you kind of go through the mix of emotions about the sorrow of losing a friend, and the loss overall to the basketball community that's occurred and just the tragic part of the suddenness of it all. There are probably a lot of people who wish they had another chance to at least say goodbye to him or say some words to him."

Mr. Lumpkin took over the Irish boys basketball program in 1991 and took O'Dea to 15 Class 3A state tournaments, resulting in 13 top-eight finishes. O'Dea won five 3A state titles (2007, 2005, 2004, 1997, 1993) and advanced to seven championship games under Mr. Lumpkin.

"It's very sad. You just always hope someone can step down on their own. It's just a sad way to pass on. I was definitely shocked," said Gregg Kalina, a former assistant under Mr. Lumpkin for 13 years and current Roosevelt girls basketball coach. "He taught me a ton about life and basketball."

Mr. Lumpkin was selected in the second round out of Miami University by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA draft. The 6-foot guard played one season for Portland and one for the Phoenix Suns.

"It was obviously pretty tragic and devastating," said Mitch Johnson, who played for Mr. Lumpkin before moving on to Stanford and whose father, former NBA player John Johnson, was Mr. Lumpkin's best friend. "It still is hard to come to grips with. There was really no one like coach Lumpkin. He truly loved O'Dea and that was his family."

Former players and coaches who worked with Mr. Lumpkin described him as a passionate and dedicated coach, who had a softer side away from the floor. They talked about how much he enjoyed talking sports with students and the satisfaction he experienced when his players were successful.

"Behind the scenes Phil was probably one of the funniest, best storytellers," Kerr said. "He loved to laugh, loved music and had a whole other side to his personality off the floor. Obviously, when he was on the court, he was very intense and very passionate about the game of basketball and took it very seriously.

"Getting to know him more as the person as opposed to the coach, kind of lets you know where the real man is and where he comes from."

Kerry McDonnell graduated from O'Dea in 1997 and was a part of the undefeated team that won a state title that season. He remembers watching Mr. Lumpkin on the bus after the championship game. The coach listened as the players talked. To McDonnell, Mr. Lumpkin looked like a proud father.

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"He believed in me," McDonnell said. "He pushed me hard as a player. That toughness I still have today and a lot of it is from coach."

Mr. Lumpkin was described as a master of the half-court offense. He expected his players to execute. He also trusted his assistant coaches, delegating enough responsibility that they were able to learn, grow and take on their own programs.

For his players, he provided lessons they continue to use.

"It's obviously a very tough situation," said Jamelle McMillan, a junior at Arizona State who played for Mr. Lumpkin and won three state titles and played in four championship games. "Way too young for something like this to happen. It really makes you think, really makes you value your relationships with people. It makes you value your health. It really puts in perspective what's important, because life is short."

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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