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As Long as We Remember...

March 12, 2003

The Legacy of TJ's Coach Tom Dickman

John P. Snyder

Although his remarkable 29- year tenure as the boys basketball coach at Thomas Johnson ended with a difficult one point loss last Friday night, those in attendance, and those who know basketball, agree that he occupies a special place that when measured for success over a long period of time is shared by just a handful of coaches.

It is said that high school coaches should count their years of service in dog years. That is, each year is really seven years. Given the pressure to win, along with bad mannered players and pushy parents, the fun of coaching is often overwhelmed by the daily irritation.

Teenagers today have a vast array of distractions available to them, from 250 channels on the cable to home video games, as well as drugs, social lives and an unwillingness to make the sacrifices necessary to make oneself a better player. Always looming about is the academic mandatories that eliminate some good players every year.

In spite of this, Coach Dickman's program has really only known success. His 593 victories makes him the winningest public school coach in the state. It looks like an untouchable record now.

His teams may have different faces every year, but the style of play remains the same. If you are going to play for Coach Dickman, you can plan on doing a lot of running. His teams will press a team every inch of the court. Many teams wither under the intense man-to-man defense. They find themselves down 20 points before they know it.

On offense, his teams always play with patience. They use motion to wear down the defense to work for the open shots. Their passes seem to arrive at the same time a cutting player arrives at the same spot. A selfish, hot dogging player will earn himself a place on the bench. Aside from Terence Morris, now with the Houston Rockets, a player has had to make due with just average height. Through positioning and block-out, Coach Dickman's teams always held their own in the rebounding department.

It certainly would have been nice for Coach Dickman to close out his TJ career with a trip to the Comcast Center to claim one last state title for TJ and the Frederick area. But the Glen Burnie Gophers had other plans.

A packed house on North Market Street saw an unforgettable game as the valiant Patriots fought like tigers against the larger, perhaps quicker, Gophers. The Patriots, who were sporting a 23 -0 record were a team that any opponent would have no trouble getting sky high for. It was not like the Patriots to miss four free throws in the last minute as they succumbed 70-69. Patriot fans had to endure a mid-court celebration by a large crowd of Glen Burnie students and parents. A trip to College Park was not to be.

Coach Dickman's success is shared by the dozens of former players, who regard their membership on one of his teams as a source of pride no matter how long it has been. He reached out and sought those who share his passion for basketball.

Those who committed to the sacrifice got to observe a man deeply rooted in discipline and hard work, unwilling to accept mediocrity and dedicated to being the best no matter what you are doing. Last year, at an award banquet for the Monocacy Middle School teams, he touched us all when he urged the group of adolescent boys not to afraid to say "I love you" to your parents, sisters or friends.

He told everyone he does the same when he speaks to those who are close to him.

He now takes his considerable talents to Hood College, where he is to begin a men's program next year.

With him will be Terry Connolly, former head coach at Urbana, and one of the great ones to play for Coach Dickman. A more capable pair would be harder to find. Now it is a matter of time before exciting college level basketball will appear with in the Frederick city limits.

As a 29-year chapter in Coach Dickman's life concludes, all we can say is "Go Blazers".

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