“He looked really sick and he was skinny, but I didn’t think that was going to be my last time seeing him.”
Terilyn Moe, a sophomore on the Nevada women’s basketball team who goes by T. Moe, had to stop what she was saying as tears started to slowly stream down her face.
She sat on the bleachers of the Virginia Street Gym after practice and reflected on someone who she described as a second father. She looked straight ahead at one of her teammates going through shooting drills to regain her composure and continue on.
Dec. 14, 2010
At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, Moe received a text from Isabel Fructuoso, one of her coaches at Mission Recreation Center in San Francisco.
Once she read the text message, she walked out of her psychology class at Terra Nova High School. She found Jayzyl Tauala, one of her teammates, in the hallway. She had also received the text message and walked out of class.
“We both just dropped our books and started crying because we both knew,” Moe said.
According to Moe, there were five or six girls at her high school who also played basketball for Oscar Jimenez, coach and founder of Mission Recreation Center, which was a free club basketball program for girls ages eight to 18. They were all sent home after receiving the news.
Jimenez died at age 57 at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Hospital at 10:02 a.m.
Terra Nova had an away game scheduled for later that day.
“We just weren’t sure how the girls were going to play,” said Tonia Moe, Terilyn’s mother. “Fortunately, when we got there, there was a blackout, so the game was cancelled.”
Fructuoso said that Jimenez started Mission Rec in the 1980s. He began with only one team, and at the time of his death the program had nine teams. He didn’t look for the star athletes, but rather took in girls from the neighborhood – some didn’t have parents or came from rough living conditions.
“He took care of them, picked them up, drove them places, bought them dinner – everything,” Moe said. “He helped us with school. He was really a great mentor. He had such a big heart.”
Young girls from the present to grown women from the past with children of their own lined the aisles along the pews of Corpus Christi Church in San Francisco. Hundreds of Jimenez’s players stood in his honor and wore their black jerseys.
Moe was near the front and wore number 13. Even at his funeral she could not believe he had passed.
“At his viewing I refused to go up and see his body and say goodbye, and that’s probably one of my biggest regrets,” Moe said with tears in her eyes, looking straight ahead at the court. “But at the time, I just didn’t want to accept it . . . that he was gone.”
A couple days after the death of her coach, mentor and second father she made something to remember him.
“For a long time Terilyn carried Oscar around her neck, and it was around her neck for the rest of her junior and senior year,” Tonia said. “I think she had it at the beginning at Nevada too, and then she learned to let go. She had to let go. Because you can’t keep grieving, and she learned that on her own.”
She hung pictures of Jimenez and a picture of her and him on a lanyard that she had in a laminated seal. She would wear the lanyard during warm-ups, and when it was time for the game to start, she put it around her coach’s neck. After the game, she would put the lanyard right back on.
“I couldn’t go a day without it,” Moe said. “One time I forgot it when I went to school, and I called my dad and I was like, ‘you need to bring it to school.’ And he came and dropped it off at school.”
Moe chose to make the lanyard to remember her fallen coach because she said it was something she could show off and keep near to her. Jimenez’s name is also written on every pair of basketball shoes that Moe owns. However, after she turned 18, she had a more permanent way of remembering him.
Above her heart is a tattoo of a flower dying with its petals falling off. While she was in school, she thought of a quote to accompany the tattoo. A teacher of hers helped her put the quote together so that it flowed.
“It says ‘tears and heartache are nothing compared to the love and memories we once shared,’” Moe said.
The Last Time
Jimenez started getting sick during the summer of 2010. Until his death on Dec. 14, he had been in and out of the hospital.
“I think he wanted to shield everyone from what was going on,” said Lynn Moe, Terilyn’s father. “Even though he didn’t look really well, he was still running practices, and he was still in the gym. He made up other stories about what was going on so when it actually came time and he was in the hospital, it came pretty fast.”
Once the Moe family heard that Jimenez was staying at the hospital, they tried to visit him as soon as possible. They received a call allowing them to visit him the second or third day. It was just Moe, her parents, Jimenez and his wife in the room.
Lynn remembers Jimenez giving Moe advice about choosing a college to play for. It was also during this time that Nevada was recruiting her. Tonia and Lynn even said that he looked great and his spirits were up.
“He was talking about what they were going to do next season so he just played it off like he was going to be around forever,” Lynn said.
Moe remembers Jimenez getting on her about her grades in school at this last meeting.
“I never took school seriously in high school because I just thought basketball will take me wherever,” Moe said. “So he really yelled at me and he was just like, ‘you need to get your crap together. I’m not playing around with you.’ He didn’t predict that he was going to be passing either. He treated it like a normal day.”
No one really knew what was happening with Jimenez’s health, and Moe said that he himself didn’t know what was wrong until about two weeks before. That was when he learned he had cancer, specifically Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Moe was one of the few girls who got to visit him in the hospital. Fortunately, they went in at the right time, because the next day, he had taken a turn for the worst.
Fructuoso was Jimenez’s assistant coach who had known him for years, and she wasn’t even able to see him. She said he didn’t want her to come because he didn’t want people to remember him like that.
More tears came when Moe reflected on the fact that she was one of the few to see him in the hospital.
“I know I was lucky to be as close as I was to him,” she said. “He always told me I was the special one and everything . . . So it’s nice to know that he believed in me.”
She said the last sentence quick, trying to get the words out soon so she could take a breath to try to compose herself again. She never thought this would be her last time seeing him.
“I can still feel him”
A little over a month ago marked the three-year anniversary of Jimenez’s death, and to this day, it’s still difficult for Moe to talk about.
“I’ve gotten a lot better about it,” Moe said. “I used to not talk to people about it at all. If they asked me what my lanyard was I wouldn’t answer. So I’ve gotten a lot better with it, but it’s still hard.”
On Dec. 14, 2013, she even posted on Twitter:
“Three years ago, and I swear it feels like you were here yesterday…”
Another tweet read:
“I need to stay off of social networks today. I can’t stand seeing this many things about Oscar.”
Moe explained that it was hard for her to cope with his passing, and that she still misses him.
“He was the kind of person that you really never get over not being here,” Moe said. “But I still feel him, and that’s what is most important.”
Every time she competes she can hear him yelling at her, mainly about her shot. Oscar’s voice saying ‘Use your legs and follow through’ rings through her ears.
Moe did admit that coming to Nevada has helped her a lot because Nevada head coach Jane Albright is family oriented, which is the same way Jimenez ran MRC.
The five-foot-eight guard is also coming off of an ACL injury from last season, and she said these struggles have only led her closer to her faith in God.
“In my entire life I’ve never had someone come back from an injury and be better than they were before they were hurt,” Albright said.
She’s earned herself a starting spot on at Nevada and is often scoring in double digits.
Her No. 13 high school jersey was even retired at Terra Nova for breaking the school record by scoring 2,352 points and 550 assists. Moe said that Jimenez was the coach who had the biggest impact on her game, but Tonia can see how he influenced the strong and caring character that her daughter possesses as well.
“I feel like he made her what she is today – always doing the best that you can and never leaving anything on the court,” Tonia said.