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Originally published Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 9:32 PM

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Coaches share fond memories of Phil Lumpkin

The laughter was missing at the Metro League coaches meeting, where the late O'Dea basketball coach was remembered as a leader and role model.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mike Bethea always looked forward to sitting next to Phil Lumpkin at the annual Metro League coaches meeting. Lumpkin, the O'Dea coach, always kept the meeting entertaining for Rainier Beach's head man.

"Phil had a humorous side to him," Bethea said. "We would sit here and he would say little things under his breath that would get me laughing."

But Tuesday night, when Bethea walked into the room at Seattle Prep, he knew that laughter would be missing.

For all the Metro coaches who knew Lumpkin, who died over the weekend after missing the previous week of school with a pneumonia, this year's meeting took on a somber tone.

"A lot of my coaching philosophies, a lot of things that I put into my system are directly from Phil," Bethea said. "I admired him as a coach, and kind of looked up to him as a coach. What could you say about the guy? To be honest with you, it's going to be real tough playing them [the O'Dea Irish] without him sitting there."

Matt Ziegenfuss, an O'Dea assistant who coached with Lumpkin for six years, said, "He was one of a kind, just a great person, a great man. I was fortunate enough to get to know him off the court and he was just a great role model to me and a mentor. He's going to be missed."

Practices for the 2009 season begin on Nov. 16 and, while rule changes and policies were discussed, the meeting started and ended with talk of ways to pay tribute to Lumpkin.

"From a basketball standpoint it's a sad day, which states the obvious," Seattle Prep coach Mike Kelly said. "From a school that he once coached at and has been intimate rivals with for a number of years, it is also a sad day. We exchanged few words, but there was an awfully deep respect for the man as a young coach growing up in the Metro League. I thought his kids played as hard as anybody. They respected the game."

Lumpkin has been elected to the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and will be inducted in July.

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