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Former Dunbar, Edmondson basketball and football coach Pete Pompey passes away at 75

Former Dunbar, Edmondson coach Pete Pompey passed away Friday night.

This basketball game was different.

In addition to wrapping up yet another Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference championship, it was the one that would assure a perfect season, as well as a mythical national title.

This one was played in front of more than 10,000 spectators at the Baltimore Arena and came with added concern as one of the team's top players was out of the lineup.

You would have never known by looking at then-Dunbar boys basketball coach Pete Pompey.

"There was never anything different with Coach Pompey. He was always loose before a game and he always made sure we were, too," said Cyrus Jones Sr., the Poets senior point guard in the 1991-92 season. "We were without Keith Booth that game, so he may have been uptight. He had reason to be, but he never showed it."

Covering 31 years and a combined 60 seasons of coaching basketball and football at Dunbar and Edmondson, Pompey coached 776 games and enjoyed 533 wins.

The most special one came that night — March 1, 1992 — when the Poets completed the 29-0 season with a dominating 86-60 win over Walbrook to win the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference championship.

Dunbar was nationally ranked No. 1 from start to finish that season by USA Today, which also selected Pompey as national high school boys basketball Coach of the Year.

Pompey, an educator for 37 years in Baltimore City, a coach and athletic director for the majority of them, and a father figure to countless Baltimore City students that crossed his path, died of pneumonia Friday and had been living with Alzheimer's disease since the summer of 2011. He was 75.

"He was a great parent and a great person," said Rhonda McNair, Pompey's daughter. "Any kid in need, he took under his wing when he was coaching, so it was like I had so many brothers. He just had a great presence and you could always see what a special person he was."

A Douglass High grad, Pompey moved on to Morgan State, where he was a standout quarterback — the first under the late legendary coach Earl Banks — before graduating in 1964.

He became a physical education teacher at Harlem Park Middle School in 1966 and, from that point on, made his mark by reaching out to thousands of Baltimore City kids with a clear message that encouraged education and hard work.

While most of his time coaching was at Edmondson — he spent the first 15 and last 10 years of his career there before retiring as the school's athletic director in 2005 — his most successful were the six years he spent at Dunbar before his time there ended in controversy.

Taking over as basketball and football coach, as well as the school's athletic director in 1986 after Bob Wade became men's basketball coach at Maryland, Pompey was able to maintain the tradition of the basketball program.

His 1991-92 team was Dunbar's third to claim a mythical national championship and the Poets went on to win 57 straight games and capture their first state title the following season — the first after city schools joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

"He was a great motivator and true student of the game," said Wade, who also was an assistant football coach under Pompey at Edmondson before moving to Dunbar.

"He set a tremendous example for the younger guys coming behind him," Wade continued. "[Coaching Dunbar basketball,] he accepted the challenge of playing the Calvert Halls and the Mount St. [Joseph]'s of the world and did extremely well, doing a great job of carrying on the tradition."

But Pompey was from West Baltimore and Dunbar is in East Baltimore, which was believed to be a cause of friction.

In 1993, Pompey was placed on administrative leave from Dunbar for an alleged misuse of funds from the school's athletic program and, despite being cleared of all charges after a 14-month investigation by the Baltimore City State's Attorney, he was reassigned to Edmondson and returned there at the start of the 1994 school year.

In 2003, as he announced he would retire from coaching, Pompey said: "My first love was always Edmondson. It got to be a little difficult at Dunbar because of the politicians in east Baltimore. But I felt I had accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, and left the program in good shape."

As football coach at Edmondson, he won three Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference championships in his first stint and came back to guide the team to a Class 2A state runner-up finish in 1999 to earn All-Metro Coach of the Year honors. In his six years coaching Dunbar's basketball team, he won three MSA titles before closing with the program's first state title.

David Lewis, a former standout football and basketball player at Dunbar who is now an assistant football coach at his alma mater, said Pompey was much more than a coach and teacher.

The 1989 Dunbar grad, who went on to play football in college, recalled his senior year when Pompey helped pay to have his family's electricity turned back on. And then there was the encouraging words he received from Pompey after he found himself farther down the depth chart in college than expected.

"He was always a phone call away. He did so many things and not only for me, but for kids before me and after me," said Lewis. "He taught me how to become a man, a better coach, a better husband – a better person. He was hard, but fair and he treated everyone from the star to the last player on the bench the same. That's just one of the qualities I've taken as coach."

Pompey is survived by his daughter Rhonda McNair; son-in-law Thomas McNair; step-daughter Kim Gough; sisters Carole Brown and Jean Nicholas and three grandchildren.

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