In Joey Trujillo’s mind, you can’t talk about Leonard Torrez without talking about Leonardo “Leo” Torrez.
When Trujillo coached Mesa Vista’s boys basketball program from 2000-03, he said father Leonardo Torrez and son Leonard Torrez were an inseparable pair. When Leonard Torrez became a Class 2A All-State performer his senior year and helped the Trojans to the 2A semifinals as a junior, Leo Torrez was always a welcome presence high up in the stands.
When the two occupied the first two seats on the Mesa Vista girls bench for the past two seasons, Trujillo said it was no surprise they were a part of the program’s turnaround.
Leonard Torrez was the head coach, while Leonardo Torrez was his top assistant. It was a role they also shared with the volleyball program.
The Lady Trojans were 7-0 this season under the Torrezes, before the two contracted COVID-19 just before Christmas and fought for their lives over the past three weeks. Leonardo Torrez and Leonard Torrez died within a day of each other, on Tuesday and Wednesday, due to complications from the coronavirus.
“Listening to people talk about Leo and Leonard, they talk about them being good coaches and motivating them,” Trujillo said. “There are people who talk about all the positives they brought to the school and what they did for the kids.”
Much of that was because of the pride they had in being Trojans themselves. Leonard Torrez was a 2002 graduate, while his dad also was a basketball player and a 1982 graduate of the school.
Thomas Vigil, a 2001 Mesa Vista graduate who was a friend and teammate of Leonard Torrez, said the younger Torrez showed off a new weight room and all of the new drills he was using for his girls team when Vigil showed up to play in an alumni game in December.
The enthusiasm he and his dad had in resurrecting a program that hadn’t been to the postseason in six seasons and won a district title in 11 years was infectious.
“When you see one of your teammates doing that, you’re just rooting for him,” Vigil said. “They had a good team this year, and you just really want to pull for your alma mater.”
Jesse Boies, who was an assistant under Leonard Torrez and now assumes the head coach role, said the two took the job, in part, because Leonard Torrez had two daughters playing in the program. Kylie Torrez is a sophomore guard on the varsity, while eighth grader Jaslene Torrez just moved up to the junior varsity after completing the middle-school season.
But he said their passion for basketball and their alma mater made the collaboration smooth.
“What gripped them was the tradition,” Boies said. “The tradition in this community is just a beautiful thing to experience. It’s just something special there.”
The only thing the Torrezes had more passion for were Leonard Torrez’s four daughters. Boies and Leonard Torrez got to know each other because they coached elementary school teams in the Española Public Schools district.
Leonard Torrez coached teams for Alcalde, while Boies was at Española Elementary.
“We became rivals,” Boies said. “They were the small-school dominant team, and we were the big-school dominant team. We’d meet in the championships, and we’d pack those little gyms up, man.”
That rivalry further sewed the seeds of friendship, and Boies joined the Torrezes in prior to the condensed 2021 season.
Richard Apodaca, Mesa Vista’s principal and head boys basketball coach, said he developed a friendship with Leonard Torrez through their mutual love of basketball and coaching. Apodaca said it almost became a tradition for the younger Torrez to call him after a game and talk about what he could do better.
“He would say, ‘Coach, what did you see tonight?’ ” Apodaca said. “I’d be like, ‘Coach, you just won by 20!’ But we would sit there and talk about the kids, the community, and I got to know him a little bit more than [Leonardo Torrez].
“But [the deaths] have been rough.”