Frank Carbajal

Frank Carbajal, who took Hartnell College to the men’s state community college basketball finals in 2003, has passed away in Fresno after a lengthy illness.

Inducted into the Community College Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Carbajal, 78, won 662 games as a college coach.

"He was a master at getting the best out of players,’’ former Hartnell assistant coach Paul Alioto said. "He could take less talented players and build that talent up to make them competitive.’’

Carbajal spent 10 years on the Panthers campus, finishing among the winningest coaches in school history with 198 wins, guiding the program to 10 consecutive postseason appearances.

Among Carbajal’s prodigies was former Palma guard E.J. Rowland, who went on to St. Mary’s College and has had a decade-long career playing professional basketball in Europe.

"There’s times when it hurts to be away from home,’’ said Rowland on his Twitter account. "This is one of them. RIP Coach Carb, you got me back on track and I’m forever thankful.’’

Alioto was an assistant coach under Carbajal for three years before taking over as the Palma head coach for 10 years.

"Players didn’t always like what he had to say,’’ Alioto said. "But they respected Frank. He had a label for being a tough coach. But he was fair with all his players.’’

Carbajal, who took the Hartnell job in 1995, won 28 games and a Coast Conference title while reaching the state tournament in 2003, still one of the best single season runs in school history.

He is one of only three basketball coaches from Hartnell to reach the Community College Elite 8, joining Lenny Wilkins and Jim Forkum.

"I learned a ton from that man,’’ said Alioto, who visited with Carbajal in August. "From a basketball and life standpoint, it was some of the most valuable times of my career.’’

Prior to taking the Hartnell job, Carbajal had previously spent time as an assistant coach at Fresno State. He also served as a scout for three years with the Utah Jazz.

One of his most successful stints as a head coach came between 1978-1988 when he won 195 games at Santa Barbara City College, guiding the program to two state community college finals appearances.

"Coach Carb is easily one of the most influential men in my life,’’ Rowland said on his Twitter account. "He held everyone accountable on the court, but more importantly off it.’’

Hartnell would be Carbajal’s last stop as a college coach after 44 seasons, retiring from a sport that had engulfed most of his life.

"More than basketball, it’s the relationship we developed outside the sport,’’ Alioto said. "There was not a better guy to be around.’’

While Carbajal earned Hall of Fame status as a basketball coach, he doubled as a baseball and basketball player at Northern Colorado, pitching his team to the College World Series in 1960 and 1961.

Carbajal has also been enshrined into the University of Northern Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

"The core or values of the team never changed,’’ Alioto said. "He made players better men.’’

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