SIOUX CITY -- Tom Goodman says his passions for coaching and for winning all started back in second grade, growing up in Fort Dodge.
Straight across the street was the high school where his father, Connie, was the head boys basketball coach.
“We were about 25 steps from the main gym that went up to the high school,’’ the former North High coach told me the other day. “I would go up those stairs and dribble a basketball and watch dad’s teams practice. That’s where I got the feeling to be competitive.’’
Two years later, he became a player-coach for a group of his fellow fourth-graders who competed at the local YMCA three days a week.
“I would coach a team like my dad did,’’ he said. “We wanted to play and we wanted to win.’’
It hasn’t changed a bit. So, I delight in telling you an old friend, Tom, has jumped back into coaching at the age of 71, serving as the head coach of the sophomore boys team at Southeast Polk, the state’s eighth largest high school.
“I can’t stay out of a gym, that’s my biggest problem,’’ he says with a laugh. “It’s like all my worries just go away. I love it so much.’’
When it comes to Iowa high school basketball, the Goodman family is unparalleled with its four IHSAA Basketball Hall of Famers. That would be Tom and his father, who had two state tournament teams at old Bronson High, along with Tom’s two sons, Tommy John and Jay. Both sons provided plenty of Sioux City prep basketball lore.
Tom’s record of 428-239 in 31 seasons as a head boys basketball coach ranks him among the state’s all-time elite. If I had more time, I’d try to ascertain if he doesn’t hold some sort of record after coaching those 31 winters at eight different high schools.
A prep all-stater in Fort Dodge, he went on to letter three seasons at Iowa State after leading the Cyclones 1965-66 freshman team (when freshmen weren’t eligible) in scoring. In his first ISU starting assignment as a sophomore the following season, he dropped in 20 points on Nebraska.
“Mainly, I was used as a guy who would come off the bench and spark the team, get the ball to the big guys,’’ said Goodman.
At 5 feet, 9.5 inches tall, he believes he was the smallest player in the Big Eight Conference throughout his three seasons on the varsity. This brings up one of several dozen interesting facts from an extraordinary life.
You see, it was after Goodman’s sophomore year that 10 players were selected to represent the U.S. in a basketball tournament in Barcelona, Spain, for individuals 6 feet tall and under. That roster included Niagara University star Calvin Murphy, who at 5-9 is the shortest player in the NBA Hall of Fame, and UCLA’s Mike Warren, who many of us enjoyed as Officer Bobby Hill on the hit TV series “Hill Street Blues.’’
“We were all set to go, I had my shots and everything, and the NCAA steps in at the last moment and said we would be ineligible if we played in this tournament,’’ recalls Goodman, who coincidentally guarded Warren when Iowa State faced UCLA.
More nuggets? How about the eight letters Goodman won at ISU, earning four each in basketball and baseball. As a leftfielder, he led the Big Eight in batting until the final series of the 1969 season.
More? Tom’s wife, the former Connie Davies, a Kansas City transplant he wound up dating at Fort Dodge High, is the daughter of Glen Davies, who was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1989. Glen was regarded as one of the premier volleyball officials in the world, working the first four Olympics for the sport.
Goodman juggled most of his productive two-sport college career around marriage and fatherhood. Tommy John was born late in Tom’s sophomore year at ISU and Jay came along when Tom was a senior.
Tommy John graduated from North in 1985 with 1,140 career points, which at the time ranked second on the all-time metro scoring chart. He lives barely a mile from his parents, now residents of the suburban Des Moines area called Copper Creek after living 13 years at Lake Panorama.
“Tommy’s boy, Tate, is a freshman at Southeast Polk,’’ said Grandpa Tom. “The other night he scored 20 against Ankeny Centennial. He’s probably good enough to come up and play on my sophomore team.’’
Jay, who owns several rental properties near Kinnick Stadium, has a son, Joey, who’s a starting guard on the sophomore team at Iowa City West. That means he may help sustain a tradition that has seen West win four of the last six Class 4A state titles.
Of course, Jay, who had previously played at both North and East, had a big hand in a state championship for his dad’s Fort Dodge team in 1988. Still, Tom gives the nod to two of his teams from North for his “biggest win” and also his most disappointing.
The biggest: North’s 82-75 state semifinal win in 1982 over top-ranked Waterloo East, a game in which the Stars converted 30 of 42 shots (71.4 percent), which is still a state tournament record.
The most disappointing: The 86-84 double-overtime semifinal loss to Ames in 1975 with junior John Tillo joined in a dynamite lineup by Kirk Speraw, Kris Jacobson, Dennis Wilson and Kevin Montgomery.
“That was the team that really got robbed in that state tournament,’’ Goodman has insisted for more than four decades. “We had seven charging fouls and (Ames) had none. They were flopping. All of them were called by the same referee and five of them were against Kirk Speraw. We were 23-0 and I still feel sorry for those kids. I’ll never get over that because I have the film of it.’’
Tom’s two sons each have three children. All six of those grandkids are boys, five of them basketball players and one a wrestler.
The coaching resume started with three seasons at HLV of Victor, where he bowed out with a state runner-up team in 1973. He coached one year at Emmetsburg before an 11-year stint at North, then one year at East, two at Fort Dodge and seven at Southeast Polk, two more at Saydel and four at West Central Valley in Stuart. Coming out of retirement after six years, he logged a season as an assistant on the girls team at Waukee and then another as an assistant for the girls at West Central Valley.
“(Southeast Polk) called me in August and said the job had been open since May, they just couldn’t find anybody to take it,’’ he said. “They wanted to know if I would take it. I said I would as long as it was the head job. I didn’t want to be an assistant again. Where I live now, it takes four or five minutes to get there. They probably have the best facilities in the state.’’
This is definitely a challenge because Goodman’s sophomore group went 0-20 when they were eighth-graders. They’re currently 1-3 with a pair of narrow defeats that slipped through their fingers.
They’ll get better, though. You can count on it.