Renowned Indian basketball coach Rajesh Patel passes away

The 61-year-old Rajesh Patel had retired from the Bhilai Steel Plant and had helped hundreds of basketball players make a career from the game for over three decades, at the national and international level.

Rajesh Patel had suffered a severe heart attack about a year and a half back, but kept travelling for basketball, saying that it was his life. (File Photo)   -  The Hindu

One of the best coaches in Indian basketball, Rajesh Patel passed away on Monday, while travelling from the Federation Cup in Chittoor to the National junior basketball championship in Ludhiana, possibly owing to a heart attack.

The 61-year-old Rajesh Patel, who had retired from the Bhilai Steel Plant, and had helped hundreds of basketball players make a career from the game for over three decades, at the national and international level, was travelling, despite medical advice not to do so.

“I had received him at the airport from Chennai and had helped him board the train to Ludhiana. After about an hour (Monday afternoon), there was a health problem for him. He was taken for medical assistance in an ambulance in Panipat, but it was late. They did a post-mortem and we are awaiting the report”, said his son, Ankit Patel, who works as a tennis coach in the Capital.

READ: Indian Overseas Bank storms to Federation Cup title

Rajesh Patel had suffered a severe heart attack about a year and a half back, but kept travelling for basketball, saying that it was his life.

Ankit, the elder of the two sons of Rajesh Patel, was carrying his father’s body back home to Raipur on Tuesday evening for the cremation, to be held in Bhilai on Wednesday around noon.

A gold medallist in basketball coaching from the National Institute of Sports, Rajesh Patel had done M.Com, MA in Sociology and LLB. He was wedded to basketball and has the unique record of helping the Chhattisgarh teams win the national titles at all levels, from mini junior to seniors, Federation Cup and National Games. His teams had won about 100 medals in all the national championships at various levels, over the years, and more than half of them were gold.

ALSO READ: Federation Cup: TN women cruise into final

Despite a heart of gold, that was always trying to help the young and needy players, the energetic coach was a menacing sight on the sidelines of a basketball court, spitting vociferous instructions to the players, right through a match. It was this energy, combined with his fine understanding of the game and the ability to groom players to a high standard that had seen him guide the Chhattisgarh women’s team to the national title past the formidable Railways.

Lara Dutta, wife of multiple Grand Slam champion, Mahesh Bhupathi has been working on a film on Rajesh Patel and his inspirational guidance of women’s basketball.

‘’Lara has been working with him and his team on their story. His death has come as a shock. There is work to be done, but the story is amazing. So, she will get it done’’, said Mahesh.