Spring 2010

[News]

Tearing Up the Floorboards

Head basketball coach Tom Wood retiring after 29 years

Whether he’s giving the referee an earful or firing up his team’s offense, Wood is known for his trademark intensity.

Tom Wood has been head coach of the men's basketball team for 29 years. Now, the man who led the team to 10 NCAA postseason appearances is coaching his last squad for Humboldt State. Wood, 62, will retire following the 2009-10 season.

"I'm proud of the progress we've made in building the program into a regional and national power," says Wood. "It's going well here, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to go out on a positive note. The timing just seems right, for me personally, and in the best interest of the program."

Whether he's giving the referee an earful or using body language to coax his team's offense into gear, Wood has always been intense.

"Bob Hammonds was my coach at UC Davis and he was all about intensity, he was nuts. I loved it," says Wood. "He required that his team really play hard and more than anything that's what I got from him."

Wood, a Humboldt County native who grew up on a ranch near Redway, played basketball and baseball at South Fork High School in Miranda before attending UC Davis. He played basketball at Davis and studied math, but switched to physical education as he set his sights on a coaching career. After earning a master's degree in physical education from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Wood served as an assistant basketball coach for seven years with the Cal Poly Broncos. He returned home in 1981 to take the reins of the HSU program.

When he began coaching at HSU, the Jacks were a non-scholarship, NCAA Division III school. While it was tough in the early days to lure students to Arcata, Wood had immediate success on the court and began building the program. The Jacks continued to win under Wood as they bounced around different conferences during the '80s and '90s, regularly playing teams in Hawaii, Alaska and various other outposts around the West.

"One trip when we were in the Pac-West Conference – talk about basketball taking you places – we were in Billings, Mont., on a Thursday night and in Silver City, N.M., on a Saturday night playing basketball. If you look on the map, you can barely get from one to the other in that time. It was quite a challenge."

HSU eventually stepped up to the Division II level and started recruiting more extensively during the 1999/2000 season. Since that time, the Jacks have played in the NCAA Division II Tournament eight of the last nine seasons and were West Region champions in 2003/2004. Over the years he had success building community support and raising funds for student-athlete scholarships.

Wood looks forward to his impending retirement days, when he can direct more energy toward his golf game and spend more time traveling with his wife.

"Interacting with the players, coaching them and preparing them, has been the most rewarding part of this job," says Wood. "That continues with seeing them go on to their own successes in life, and thinking their experience here might have had something to do with that. I'll miss that the most."

Longtime assistant coach Steve Kinder has been named head coach for the 2010-2011 season, and Wood couldn't be more pleased. "(Steve's) been an equal partner in all our successes," says Wood. "He's an accomplished recruiter, and he's also an accomplished coach. I don't think the program could be in better hands."