Jan. 29—High school sports fans might not have known Tom Drangmeister by name, but it's likely at one point they'd seen his face.
A longtime boys basketball coach in New Mexico, a former multi-sport athlete at Western New Mexico, game analyst with ProView Networks and a regular fixture at prep sporting events, Drangmeister, 82, died early Wednesday morning at an Albuquerque hospital.
"He was a great father," his son, Ed, said. "He did a great job producing two great kids, me and my sister Amy. The dude loved everything about high school athletics in the world, and athletics in general."
The New Mexico High School Coaches Association paid tribute to Drangmeister, as did many others as news of his death began to circulate.
"Unfortunately, Tom will no longer be able to share his historical knowledge and his historical love of high school sports in New Mexico as he has for the last 55+ years," the New Mexico High School Coaches Association said in a statement. "As a coach, as a salesperson, as an athletic coordinator, as a broadcaster, as a mentor, and as a teacher, Tom was a winner."
The NMHSCA president, Gary Bradley, said, "Tom Drangmeister was a lifelong friend of coaches in New Mexico. His dedication, his grumpiness and his love for life will forever be in the hearts of the New Mexico coaching fraternity. God bless his family."
Drangmeister was born in Calumet City, Illinois, and later found his way to the Southwestern high desert of New Mexico, where he played baseball and basketball in Silver City for the WNMU Mustangs.
He later coached boys basketball at Deming, Gadsden and Grants, and was an assistant coach (when his brother Dick was head coach) at Western New Mexico from 1974-77.
Drangmeister entered sporting goods sales for nearly a 30-year period, ending in 2012. ProView asked him to become an analyst in 2008, said Steve Davis, president of ProView Networks.
"It's like losing a family member," said Valley High football coach Judge Chavez. "I'm gonna miss him so much."
When Nusenda Community Stadium opened on the West Side, Drangmeister served as the facility manager for its first few years.
"I think he's an icon for New Mexico," Davis said. "You couldn't have a man more concerned about other people than himself. That's the thing he was so good about, always asking about people and their needs."
Even if he wasn't broadcasting a game, Drangmeister often visited gyms simply as a spectator.
"Tom you were one cool dude," said Richard Tripp, a play-by-play man for ProView, on Twitter. "You said it and meant it!!"
A former ProView play-by-play man, Adam Diehl, who is the voice of New Mexico United, posted an old photo of himself and Drangmeister on Wednesday on Twitter, originating from the Pit.
"Many great broadcast(s) together, but more importantly a great friend will be missed!"
There were many other similar comments about Drangmeister posted to social media.
"This guy was the real deal man," Artesia football coach Jeremy Maupin said. "Always treated us with the (utmost) respect."
"The epitome of a class act!" Highland High football coach Philip Lovato said.
Said Clovis football coach Cal Fullerton: "What a great man. ALWAYS made you feel appreciated and welcomed. Will miss this man a ton."
Ed Drangmeister said he was deeply touched by all the comments directed toward his father, who many knew as "Pops."
"The outreach from the state of New Mexico has been pretty amazing," Ed Drangmeister said.
Chavez said Drangmeister was a friend to high school coaches.
"We spent a lot of time together, away from business," he said. "The thing about him is, he'd do anything for coaches. He helped me through my early years as a head coach, showing me the ropes on how to do things."
Davis described the friendly, outspoken Drangmeister as a mentor. The two men first crossed paths when Davis played boys basketball at Clovis High in the mid-1970s and Western New Mexico was recruiting him.
"I don't think I have the words to describe what he's done for me and what he's done for the state of New Mexico," Davis said.
Among his other recognitions include distinguished service award winner from both the NMHSCA and Albuquerque Public Schools, and an Amateur Softball (ASA) Hall of Honor induction for fast-pitch softball.
Ed Drangmeister said a celebration of life for his father would be planned sometime in the spring.