Hoop coach rests on Sundays
Basketball: Tom Prince coaching two teams and helping others
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 06, 2013 06:00 am
That might not be a clipboard the Foothills Falcons Senior boys assistant coach is looking at, it could also be his day planner he is peaking at to make sure he is at the right game.
Tom Prince is the assistant coach for the Falcons and the head coach of the Westmount Junior High School Wolves and fills in when needed on Okotoks community basketball teams.
Oh, yeah, he also works five days a week.
“I am involved in basketball every day but Sunday,” the 34-year-old Prince said. “Monday through Friday I either have a Grade 9 practice, a Falcons practice or helping the other teams when needed. On Saturdays there are games.”
Prince started playing basketball in Calgary when he was seven years old. He went on to play point guard for the Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School Lancers and then men’s basketball in Calgary. He was also a basketball referee for 14 years.
When he moved to Okotoks four years ago he decided it was his turn to help the game he loved.
“Basketball was my life when I was growing up,” Prince said. “I played it, studied it, my dad was a coach… I think I had between 20 and 25 coaches throughout my basketball career. I feel a lot of good men and women took time out of their lives and put it into mine. I want to give back. Sure I’m busy, but I love it.”
Prince has family ties when he coaches his 14-year-old son Tyson with the Westmount Wolves and his sons Phoenix, 10, Jaxon, 6 and daughter Nyssa, 8 through the Okotoks Minor Basketball Association. As for why he coaches the Falcons, it’s because when it comes to hoops, he’s like Donald Trump and publicity — he just can’t get enough of it.
He met Falcons head coach Amron Gwilliam four years ago through a mutual friend. Prince knows he’s the assistant and Gwilliam is the boss, however, a good boss is smart enough to listen to his staff.
“Amron always takes the time to get my input,” Prince said. “After every team meeting he always asks if I have anything to add.”
Prince is smart enough to soak up Gwilliam’s knowledge of the game and passes it on to the younger teams he coaches. He also realizes a Westmount Wolf isn’t going to handle a pick and roll drill as easily as a high school player.
“The drills that Amron runs are definitely tougher than what the younger kids could handle,” Prince said. “So I will take that drill and modify it for the Grade 9s, and then I will simplify it some more for the eight year olds. There is a lot I take away from the Falcons for the younger teams.”
When you coach so many teams you need a priority list. The rule is family first and then the Falcons. Surprisingly there aren’t too many conflicts in scheduling. Prince has an attendance record for Falcons’ games and practices better than most Canadian senators in during senatorial proceedings. He estimated he makes 95 per cent of the high school games and practices.
He’s glad he’s found the time to coach the Grade 9 boys at Westmount School. The Wolves have improved considerably in the school’s first year in existence, finishing second at a tournament they hosted on Jan. 26.
“I was really proud of the boys,” he said. “At Westmount we have some Grade 7 and 8 boys on the team and they are learning the game exponentially.”
Meanwhile, Prince’s wife Randea has the patience of Job, but she knew the gig when she married Tom. The Princes lived just a few houses apart while growing up and were high school sweethearts.
She’s taken the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em approach.”
Randea is the registrar for Okotoks Minor Basketball Association and is the chairperson for the Steve Nash Tykes program in the community.
“I grew up in a basketball family, but I wasn’t a basketball person,” she said. “Tom and I have known each other since we were in Grade 3 so I knew what I was getting into. I have decided that if my family is going to be in the gym, I am going to be in there with them.”
She might be in a gym, but not necessarily the same one as Tom. While Tom is coaching in one place, Randea is taking another child to another game or practice.
She has learned to love the game, sort of.
“I have learned to love the players,” she said. “You get so invested in the kids, especially at the high school level, that you want to see them succeed. It is a lot more fun to cheer someone on when you know them.”
As for family supper, it’s anybody’s guess.
“It’s a wrestling game,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes we eat at 4 p.m., sometimes it’s 8 p.m., but it’s worth it. The kids love being in that Foothills gym for Falcons games.”
However, everybody has a breaking point. When North America is in the throes of March Madness, Randea is on the verge of going basketball batty.
“Come March 15th I don’t want to hear a bouncing basketball,” Randea said with a chuckle. “But we survive every year.”