If El Paso was to carve the images of the top names in sports onto the Franklins in its own version of the athletic Mount Rushmore, it would have EPISD’s prints all over it.
Three of the four faces in the would-be athletic Mount Rushmore organized by the El Paso Times — including current Andress High School head basketball coach Jim Forbes – would have links to the District.
El Pasoans voted for the top names in El Paso sports on the newspaper’s website. Besides the legendary Forbes, readers also voted for Irvin High alumna Jennifer Han, a world boxing titleholder; and the iconic UTEP basketball coach Don Haskins who led the 1966 Miners to the state’s only NCAA men’s championship. EPISD is currently building a new PreK-8 school that will bear Haskins name.
Rounding off the list is Bruce Reichman, a Del Valle High School soccer coach who has won state soccer titles.
Forbes was humbled by the honor.
“Considering the people who have come through El Paso throughout the years, this is quite an honor,” Forbes said. “I would like to thank everyone who voted for me and for believing in me. I appreciate it and I’m honored by it.”
The voting began earlier this month with 35 El Paso athletic greats before being narrowed down to 16, eight and the final four. Forbes competed against eight El Paso greats in the finals – most with ties to EPISD.
“Putting Forbes on there was easy,” said Times sportswriter Bret Bloomquist. “He’s the most iconic high school basketball coach in this town and he should have an Olympic gold medal as a player.”
The other four in the elite eight were: Burges grad and Green Bay Packer Aaron Jones; Bowie High alum and National Basketball Hall of Famer Nolan Richardson; Texas Western basketball great Bobby Joe Hill; and UTEP and NBA standout Tim Hardaway.
Hill, too, will be honored by EPISD with a new PreK-8 bearing his name. The District already has a middle school named after Richardson.
Forbes was focused on distance learning when the voting was happening and didn’t realize he was among the 35 greats up for consideration. It wasn’t until he made the sweet 16 that he became aware that he was in the running.
“I’m honored to be in the same paragraph as coach Haskins,” said Forbes, who played for Haskins. “Everyone in there in their own right is a great sportsman and statesman for the City of El Paso.”
Forbes has coached high school basketball in El Paso for more than 36 years with the past 16 at Andress where he had a final four showing in 2015. He also took Riverside High to the final four 20 years earlier. A few years ago, Forbes celebrated his 600th win. He most recently led his team to a 30-4 record this season.
“Coaching young men has always been more of a pleasure than a job,” he said. “We tell our players to forget about the past season, build on it and get better so we can fulfill our dream of winning a state championship. That’s our goal every year and we openly talk about it.”
But as Bloomquist mentioned, Forbes isn’t just known for his coaching prowess. The 67-year-old also played 1972 US Olympic basketball team, winning a silver in a controversial final against the Soviet Union. He was a star player in the 1970s on the UTEP basketball team, earning him a place in the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“He’s one of the only people on that list who qualified for it in two different ways,” Bloomquist said. “I was happy to see him get this recognition. He’s earned it over decades.”
Bloomquist said the lockdown that closed all sports worldwide made it a perfect time for this Mount Rushmore project.
“We started kicking around the idea a few years ago but it got lost, and this was the perfect time to revive it,” he said. “The idea all along was a vote of readers, so the hardest part for us was narrowing a list of hundreds of worthy El Pasoans to 35.”
To read the El Paso Times story on the Athletic Mount Rushmore, click here.