KAILUA-KONA — Bill Trumbo — a legendary coach, educator and administrator — passed away on Sunday under hospice care for advanced Alzheimer’s.
He was 79 years old.
On his lengthy resume, Trumbo was everything from an Otter to an Argonaut, with stops at Sonoma State, Idaho and Santa Rosa Junior College — just to name a few. He is in multiple Halls of Fame and touched thousands with his leadership and guidance.
Trumbo was also an athlete in his own right. With a towering frame, Trumbo was a two-sport athlete for four years at Chapman College in California. He was a forward in basketball and a catcher on the baseball team from 1957-61.
In his playing days he helped Chapman basketball to four NCAA tournaments, including the Panthers’ runner-up team at the 1960 national championships. He won Chapman’s Hertzog Trophy in baseball as the team’s most valuable player and was named co-outstanding senior athlete in 1961.
Locally, Trumbo was known for his time and contributions at The University of Hawaii-Hilo and Konawaena.
As the athletic director at UH-Hilo from 1990-2000, Trumbo guided the Vulcans through the transition from the NAIA to the NCAA. Along the way, the 2014 Vulcans Athletic Hall of Fame inductee secured corporate sponsorships for various programs, founded and built the Vulcans Athletic Hall of Fame and created multiple top-level collegiate basketball tournaments.
Konawaena saw an impressive era of sustained success with Trumbo at the helm of the athletic department, with BIIF and state championship banners in multiple sports being brought back to Kealakekua.
“I tried to stay out of the way, hire good coaches and not micromanage. I believe if you run things the right way, the results will follow,” Trumbo said after he stepped away. “I have always looked forward to work. I will miss it, and all the young people, but will still find other ways to have a positive effect.”
Konawaena principal Shawn Suzuki said the Wildcat family was mourning the loss of the school’s former AD.
“The news came as a shock, turned into sadness for (his wife) Lori, his family, friends and our school, then an appreciation as we reminisced how fortunate we were to have him running our athletic ship all those years,” Suzuki said. “No one will soon forget Bill calling home baseball games over the PA seated in his cart pushing snack shack candy deals or him telling stories of what his former players were now up to if you had a moment to spare. The number of lives he had a positive influence on here, directly and indirectly, are countless.”
Trumbo retired as athletic director at Konawaena in 2016, but his many contributions are still felt today, Suzuki said.
“For the past several years we’ve talked about how we are experiencing the feeling of a Konawaena Renaissance, our school turning several corners academically, emotionally and athletically,” Suzuki said. “Bill was a huge part of it. And even if you just whittled it down to the number of championships the school won during his tenure, his impact is undeniable.”
Trumbo’s most recent endeavor was as the director of Big Island Sports Academy. The objective of the nonprofit is to “support, manage, and develop educational and athletic opportunities for Big Island youth.”
“What I know is that Bill Trumbo was an educator through and through — with a dogged focus on player academic and social development,” Suzuki said. “He loved his players, his coaches, his community, and every school he worked at or for. Bill was a colleague, mentor, and friend. An ‘old school’ man with just enough ‘new school’ to make him accessible by everyone.”
Many reached out on social media to share their memories of Trumbo.
Bill O’Rear, who was recruited by Trumbo out of high school and later played for the Vulcans before becoming the longtime Tribune-Herald sports editor, wrote a tribute on Facebook to his former coach.
“Coach Trumbo leaves behind a remarkable coaching legacy,” O’Rear said, “one that inspired others to chase their dreams while still trying to have a positive impact on those around them.”
Memorial services will be announced soon.