Last Monday night, the Rio Grande Rivalry was put on the back burner as the Lobos and Aggies joined up with New Mexico Senate and House legislators to generate funds for cancer.
The 2018 Hoops for Hope event saw Democrats and Republicans alike, play and support each other as the participants helped raise money for the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center's patient assistance program.
But it wasn't just political rivals who put their differences aside — there were also two opposing college football coaches who played a hand in the action by leading the legislators turned basketball players for one night at the Santa Fe Indian School.
Only in a rare instance such as a charity event like this, would one see New Mexico State Aggie football coach Doug Martin and University of New Mexico Lobo football coach Bob Davie have their coaching abilities cross over from the gridiron to the hardwood to coach a group of grown men in a basketball game.
Rae Ann Paden, chief administrative officer for the UNM Cancer Center, said that, for over 19 years, the patient services program has helped cancer patients who don’t have the resources to travel to their medical appointments, providing them with gas cards, and overnight hotel stays across New Mexico. The program also aids cancer patients with transportation needs from Casa Esperanza, Paden said.
Monday marked Davie's sixth year coaching the Hoops for Hope event and he appeared to be proud that he had led his team to four straight games. But Davie also seemed to take notice of the importance of the event, saying every one's life has been affected by cancer — including his own.
“My older brother died of cancer in my senior year in high school and I saw the devastation it had on my entire family,” Davie said.
According to Davie, he said he is proud to see how our legislators not only take this basketball game, but their jobs, seriously. Davie went on to say that he has gotten to know many of the legislators playing in the event throughout the years.
“We’re in good hands because they show how competitive they are and how passionate they are and that goes well for our state to have leaders in charge that are those kind of guys,” Davie said.
New Mexico State University football coach Doug Martin said the last time he coached the Hoops for Hope event was in 2013 and the legislators told him that was the last time the House won.
Martin is no stranger to big wins. He led New Mexico State to 26-20 victory over Utah State in the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 29 to cap the 2017 football season. It was the first bowl appearance for the Aggies, who compete in the Western Athletic Conference, in 57 years.
“These guys take this game very seriously to begin with. Hopefully, I can bring them some luck this year,” Martin said.
And the NMSU head coach admitted luck might be something his team would need, since basketball is not his forte.
“I don’t know much about basketball, but we can get out here and fake and just have a good time,” Martin contended.
But, luck wasn't enough as Martin and the House was unable to prevail. Instead it was Davie who coached the Senate to victory en route to a 33-24 win.
NM House Representative Bill McCamley (D), district 33, has been playing a variety of positions in the hoops event for six years and said his family has been hard hit by cancer, too. McCamely stated not even a broken bone would stop him from participating. McCamely represents Las Cruces in the NM Legislature and played for the House team under coach Martin.
“Both my parents had cancer. My dad had pretty bad lung cancer where he had two-thirds of his right lung taken out. My mom had a malignant skin cancer, luckily that wasn’t too big of a deal…got to beat it," McCamely said. "This game gets pretty rough. I’ve broken a rib in this game."
Even though McCamely ended up on the losing squad, he pointed out that "everybody wins" — estimating that they usually raise about $20,000 to $25,000 for the UNM Cancer Research Center.
Senate Lobos Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D), district 12, seemed to feel his team had an advantage over the House, which is why he said his team has won four annual games.
“Our guys have played together, the same five guys have been our starters for the last several years. They’re just used to each other," Ortiz y Pino contended. "We’ve won for the last several years with free throws in the fourth quarter. They’re (the House) desperate for a victory."
New Mexico Senator Ron Griggs (R), District 34 in Alamogordo, said no matter what people stand for, it is humane that they are able to put differences aside to represent a cause bigger than themselves.
But, as far as who wins the game — Griggs stuck with his team legislators.
“It’s really great. We’re sitting here watching the game. Nobody’s a Democrat — nobody’s a Republican — they are all just playing the game for a good cause.” Griggs said of supporting his senate colleagues in this game.
Amy Liotta, the program operations director at the UNM Cancer Center, Program Operations Director, said New Mexico Representative Ray Ruiz died of Lung Cancer in 1971.
And in 2004, the NM Legislators began playing this game in his honor, as well as to benefit the UNM Cancer Center. Liotta said the money raised includes donations from legislators, companies who sponsor, t-shirts for sale and suggested donations at the door before the game. Before this year’s Hoops for Hope, Liotta said, proceeds have totaled $180,000.
The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center reported the final tally for money raised at the 2018 Hoops for Hope event was $32,255.
Sherri Barth is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She covers track and field and contributes content for basketball, football, rugby and other sports. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SherriJBarth23.