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OBITUARY: Cerritos resident, longtime high school basketball assigner passes away


July 1, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


Rich Day, a resident of Cerritos who served as a CIF-Southern Section basketball assigner for nearly three decades, among other job titles, passed away in the afternoon of Sunday, Apr. 25.

According to his only son Jeff Day, the Whitney High athletic director, Rich Day was dealing ‘with a bunch of things’ but ultimately succumbed to respiratory failure.

Rich Day, who was born on June 12, 1943, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, began having problems back in late September of 2020 with a partial amputation of his left big toe because of diabetes and he never got out of the hospital, Jeff Day said. Rich Day began his treatment at Los Alamitos Hospital, then went to a couple of care facilities before ultimately going to a rehabilitation center in Brea. When his respiratory system was failing, he ended up at St. Jude’s in Fullerton for the last week.

“I got two sisters and I don’t know if it was easier or difficult,” Jeff Day said of his duties at Whitney during the eight months while his father was in the hospital. “But we were pretty much virtual the whole time. I still have my teaching duties, but for the first several months of that, we didn’t even have sports going on.

“The hardest part of that whole thing was he never got Covid, but all those Covid rules…he was pretty much alone that whole time,” Day said. “He could rarely have visitors depending on the facility he was at and the situation and the condition he was in. There were months and months where he could only see any of his family through a window. He didn’t deserve that because of all that stupid Covid protocol. That’s the thing that I’m the saddest about.”

About 300 people attended the funeral, which was on May 22 at the Arbor Road Church in Long Beach, including former Artesia High head coach Wayne Merino, former Artesia assistant coach Roland Preciado and former Gahr High head coach Kurt Ruth, to name a few. Also in attendance were a lot of the top referees from the Long Beach Unit of the California Basketball Association.

Rich Day grew up in South Gate, where he attended high school before going to East Los Angeles College and then signing up for the Army where he was a platoon leader. Rich Day would also attend California State University, Los Angeles where he met his wife, Kathi, in 1969. They moved to Cerritos that year, shortly before Jeff Day was born.

In the mid-1960s, Rich Day worked for the South Gate Parks and Recreation Department before teaching middle school in Downey in the early years of the 1970s while still with the South Gate Parks and Recreation. In the mid-1980s, Rich Day was a member of the Cerritos Chamber of Commerce and worked at the Azusa Parks and Recreation. To say that Rich Day was heavily involved with sports would be an understatement and it’s what led him to officiating. He was a referee and umpire during his collegiate days and in his 52 years with the CBA, was a referee, instructor, board member, mentor, special committee’s member and assigner.

“He was there; he started as a referee in the 1960s,” Jeff Day said. “He was one of the initial members, and the last member still a part of the initial group that came in that started the Long Beach unit. He pretty much held every position imaginable from referee to board member. He was the assigner, observer, mentor; he would just do whatever. He was big in pushing female [referees] through and wanted to help with the younger officials, especially.”

When Rich Day was working at the South Gate Parks and Recreation, he would take Jeff Day, his cousins and friends as well as Ruth, who was a neighbor of the Days, to the 100-acre park on the weekends and would have access to anything they needed. They also had equipment for their neighborhood which meant they grew up playing every sport imaginable, according to Jeff Day.

And when Rich Day, who coached a lot of the teams his son and his friends were on, was a high school and college basketball referee, he would take Jeff Day to the gymnasium three to four times a week so he and his friends could play while his dad was refereeing. As an assigner, Rich Day would be on an annual contract and every spring, he would be up for renewal.

“When you’re dealing with schools and coaches, you have a lot of egos, especially with the bigger schools,” Jeff Day said. “But when you’re dealing with every year approximately 200 referees, how many people can know every single person? You can see a referee once, but does that truly tell you that you know them? [My dad] would get to know each person. He would make it a challenge that he wanted to know every single person.

“You’re at the mercy of a Board of Directors that turns over every two years,” he later added. “It’s not like your buddies are in charge of keeping you every year. He probably went through eight to 10 different board presidents and 20 different boards in his 30 years of assigning. So, I think he did it the right way.”

Rich Day was put in the CIF-SS Hall of Fame and was recognized in October of 2019 at their annual ceremony. He was also a middle school special education teacher and would do what the kids needed, even if it meant staying in the classroom after school or not going to lunch with his friends, according to Jeff Day. He also said that his dad would teach outside of the book and taught life skills to his students.

“He loved his family and he really liked fishing,” Jeff Day said. “Everyone saw him as always in the gym. But he liked to fish and he also, for a short stint, was a photographer in the 1960s with the UPI. He was an ambassador when President [John F.] Kennedy was assassinated. He was at the [Los Angeles] Sports Arena for Final Four’s. He many times met John Wooden and had sittings with John Wooden and talked with John Wooden. They got to know each other personally by name because my dad for a good 25 years was an observer in the Pac-10 [Conference]. A lot of people probably didn’t know that.”

Rich Day is survived by Jeff Day, daughters Jennifer and Allison and grandchildren Tyler, Ryan, Erin, Amaya and Mila.