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When somebody says "welcome home" to Bill Trumbo, he could be in a lot of places.

But for the nomadic Trumbo, currently the athletic director and men's basketball coach at Cal State Monterey Bay, Sonoma County will always have a special place in his heart.

And Trumbo, now 66, has a spot in the hearts of a lot of players and fans of Sonoma State and Santa Rosa JC. His return to courtside at SSU - even if it's on the visitor's side - has rekindled many memories.

"He was a good guy, great to play for," said Montgomery High boys' basketball coach Tom Fitchie, who played for Trumbo for two years at SSU, then served as his assistant for several years at SRJC.

"He's a great teacher," added Fitchie. "Firm but fair."

Trumbo's Otters lost to SSU, 72-59, at Rohnert Park on Jan. 7. The Seawolves play at Seaside on Feb. 10.

Trumbo, a four-year letterman (baseball, basketball) at Chapman College, came to SSU for the 1972-73 season, leaving a coaching job at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri.

SSU was coming off a dismal season - 3-24 overall, 0-12 in the Far West Conference. But Trumbo put together a mix of players: Fitchie and another former Montgomery High star, Steve Tiedeman, three players from Grossmont and two DivisionI kickbacks.

"It was magic," recalled Trumbo. "When I got here, SSU had never had a winning season in any sport."

But the Cossacks, as they were known then, were 16-8 Trumbo's first year, 10-2 in the Far Western Conference, to qualify for their first NCAA berth.

The next season, they set an SSU record that still stands with 13 consecutive wins, were 18-10 overall and earned another NCAA berth.

SSU eliminated basketball the following year for lack of funding, so Trumbo moved over to SRJC, posting a 212-68 record in nine seasons, including seven conference titles and three Final Eight berths.

He took a job at Idaho, but after three seasons of steady improvement he was replaced.

In 1989, after an international stint as the coach of the men's Kenyan National Team, Trumbo returned to college coaching at Santa Barbara CC for a year before becoming athletic director at Hawaii-Hilo on the Big Island.

A decade later he took a similar post at Cal State Monterey. "I wanted to get back in the California retirement system," he said, and also wanted to be near his mother, Dorothy, who lives in Sacramento.

It was in Hilo he met his wife, Lori. They've been married 10 years. He has two daughters from a previous marriage, and she has three.

"Lori will be graduating with a degree in business and communications from Monterey Bay," said Trumbo. "She raised her family and never had a chance to go to college."

They still own property in Hawaii and want to move back someday, but there is unfinished business.

He added the basketball coaching to his A.D. duties in 2003 "for at least two seasons." He said he doesn't want the program in the hands of a part-time coach, and the school can't afford a full-time position.

Trumbo, who is assisted by former Cardinal Newman and El Molino coach Pat Kosta, says it's still fun when he walks in the SSU gym, a place where his teams never lost a home game during his two years there.

"I remember our first year (at SSU)," he said. "One night we had 29 people, and most of them were in the equipment room watching a USC-UCLA game. The next year, we had eight sellouts."

He's proud of having turned around the SSU and SRJC programs - "I've always loved developing programs." His overall coaching record is 525-246.

He doesn't know how much longer he'll keep coaching. "We won't have the money to get an established coach, but we do want a full-time guy," said Trumbo. "This program is getting better, and we want to keep it there."

Monterey Bay is a new member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, SSU's conference.

The Otters are 7-11 overall and 3-3 in conference. "It's a tough conference," he said. "But we'll be OK."

Despite his age, the 6-foot-3 Trumbo still gets out on the floor. "I can still teach. ... I can still cut guys off," he said.

That doesn't surprise Fitchie: "He always was a great teacher. I doubt that will ever change."

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