RIP, coach. (Hector
was my uncle's next door neighbor. Good guy who was a huge Sun Devils/Cardinals fan)
Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends and former players.
Ex-North coach Bejarano was 'true' friend
Royce Youree was the bearer of sad news Sunday night when he told me Hector Bejarano died in the morning.
Bejarano was like the ultimate brother to Youree. They formed a bond beginning in 1967 when Youree was at Phoenix East and asked Hector to be his assistant boys basketball coach. What followed was family scrapbook stuff.
East won five big-school state championships in 15 years. Bejarano never thought of leaving Youree's side during that reign of excellence.
It wasn't until East was forced to close its doors in 1982 that Bejarano branched off on his own and started North's resurgence in basketball.
Youree went on to help Tom Bennett continue to excel in the junior college ranks as co-coach at Mesa Community College.
Youree spoke Sunday night as if Hector was still here. In a way, he was.
At 5:10 in the morning, Youree said his alarm went off inexplicably. He didn't think anybody had set the alarm. He said it was at about that time that his good friend was found dead in the retirement home in which he was living in east Mesa. Youree felt the alarm sounding was Hector's way of saying goodbye.
The previous day, Hector had left a voice message at Youree's home, asking him to call. Royce was in Payson for the Fourth of July. Bejarano spent the Fourth with his oldest son, Hector Jr., at his home with family that included a 1-year-old granddaughter. Hector Jr., drove his father home last night. Then, shortly after Youree's alarm went off, Hector's son Steve called Royce, crying with the news of his father's death.
"Our staff, we were all extremely loyal to each other," Youree said. "He is the epitome of that. A loyal and true friend that you trust. Even when things are looking a little bit bad, you can trust him. He was a tremendous individual. We ate together. We played together. We coached together."
Bejarano, who was 69, retired from coaching in '93 and from teaching in '95. He had health ailments since 1995 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had that under control, but two years ago he fell from his roof and suffered a head injury. He was hospitalized for a week.
In 2008, he suffered a stroke.
Then, in March, during North's incredible state championship victory -- won on a last-second shot by Robert Arvizu -- Hector suffered a mild stroke while on the North bench. North asked him to be on the bench just for that game. It was the inner city school's first state championship since Hector coached North to back-to-back titles in 1990 and '91.
Youree knew something was wrong with Hector after last March's championship game by how he remained seated at the end of the bench, expressionless, after North players and coaches celebrated on the Jobing-com Arena floor. Hector was taken to the hospital that day.
"I didn't have a closer friend than Hector," Youree said.
Services are pending, but Hector Jr., said his father's wish was to be buried in his home town of Miami, Arizona.