Rex Kalamian Rumors
A few months back, longtime NBA assistant coach Rex Kalamian rummaged through a box of sentimental relics he stumbled across while cleaning. In the middle of a pandemic, especially after having spent months in the NBA bubble in Orlando, those family trinkets strummed a little bit harder on the heart strings. In the box, Kalamian found one of his old writings — an essay from a ninth grade school assignment. Maybe eighth. He carefully unfolded the papers, now permanently creased and tinted beige after three-plus decades of being tucked away, and to life came the story of his grandmother Yevkine Yermanian.
She is the reason he was born in the United States, the grandson of a woman who witnessed atrocities in Armenia no citizen should have to endure. As he sat in his Los Angeles home, reading words he’d written after interviewing her back in the early ’80s, Kalamian was reminded yet again of her terrifying upbringing. How she was from Amasya, an ancient city in modern-day Turkey located in a fertile river valley and surrounded by mountain ranges just south of the Black Sea coast.
How she knew she was born in 1903, just didn’t know what month, and was all of 12 when she witnessed her father get kidnapped. The Turkish army was rounding up thousands of men, the professionals and intellectuals first, for execution. They later came back for her mother and Yevkine’s older siblings. “She witnessed her father being taken, her siblings being killed,” Kalamian said. “Her mother was raped.”
Reading his grandmother’s story revived his appreciation for what he has: a 19-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. Twenty-six years under his belt as an assistant coach in the NBA, a nice life in Los Angeles, a personal relationship with some of the best players and brightest minds in the NBA, and a new job as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings. But it also broke his heart, especially knowing his homeland was suffering great loss again.
Last month, as a result of a Russian-brokered ceasefire arrangement, the prime minister of his home country formally withdrew troops from certain territories within the autonomous Republic of Artsakh (known internationally as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic). After being overtaken militarily by Turkish-backed Azerbaijani forces following 44 days of intense fighting, Armenian defense forces also withdrew from seven buffer areas surrounding Artsakh. They were protecting what Armenians believed to be their sacred land, dating as far back as the pre-Christian kingdom of Armenia under the reign of King Tigranes. The concessions were a gut-wrenching loss felt by Armenians everywhere. The anguish of 2020 reached a new low for this community. When Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan surrendered, another chunk of the ancient Armenian land was seized, leaving the question of what will be targeted next.
For many Americans, it was but another greater Middle Eastern conflict steeped in centuries of territorial fighting and cultural norms not well understood. But for ethnic Armenians in the U.S. and elsewhere, including Kalamian, what happened this fall dredged up old trauma and their collective greatest fear: annihilation and a land takeover of what remains of their homeland. “Armenia is a very small country and they had absolutely no physical support or backing from other nations around the world in this war,” Kalamian said in November after the Armenian withdrawal. “They were forced to give up more of their land yet again, and so many lives lost in the process. We did not want our Armenian people to endure another genocide by the force of their neighbors while the world sat and watched. Something had to be done to stop the killing of the innocent people in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians are very resilient people, and the country is filled with tremendous history. This is not a time to be sad for Armenia, because the people and country will unite and overcome, as they have done many times in the past.”