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Dickman scratching out new chapter at Hood

December 22, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Tom Dickman was back at his alma mater, Shepherd College, on Saturday to help honor his college basketball coach, Bob Starkey.

While Dickman was happy to be on hand for the festivities, there was another more pressing task on Dickman's mind - trying to lead his first-year Hood College men's basketball team past the Division II Rams at the Butcher Athletic Center.

On Dec. 27, 2002, Dickman made the surprise announcement that he would be leaving his position at Thomas Johnson High School at the end of the season to coach and help form the first men's team at Hood.

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One year later, the Blazers are on the court with a team full of freshmen that has notched two wins in its first four games.

"If you would have told me a year ago that we would be 2-2 right now ... well, I don't know what I would have done," Dickman said. "But we could have gone all season without a win. I don't want to say I'm surprised, because we go into every game expecting to win. But I am surprised at the quality of players that we have."

Certainly Dickman, who was both basketball coach and athletic director at TJ, knew he faced a steep uphill battle in starting a men's basketball team at a small college with an enrollment that is nearly 75 percent female.

He's been involved in nearly every aspect of the program since he signed on, from ordering balls and uniforms to scheduling and recruiting.

"I'm probably spending the same amount of time on work as I did at TJ, but I'm always doing something I like to do," Dickman said. "I'm not having to worry about whether or not the field hockey field is lined or whatever."

Dickman spent 29 years at TJ, winning 592 games and seven state titles in turning the Frederick school into a regional and, on occasion, national power.

When the opportunity arose at Hood, he sought out his mentor and former coach for advice.

"I told him to do it," Starkey said. "He knows what it's like, seeing me coach and watching his kids play college ball. I told him it would be a great refreshment for him. He had to make up his own mind, but I knew he would enjoy it."

Dickman took Starkey's advice on the job, but he didn't listen to everything the old coach told him.

"I told him not to play Shepherd in his first year. They're too strong to play in the first year," Starkey said. "Wait until the second year when you have a better chance to win."

That, however, is not Dickman's style. He always welcomed the opportunity to play top-notch teams at TJ, and he's taken that philosophy along with him to Hood, a Division III program.

"If it were up to Coach, we wouldn't be playing anybody," Dickman said. "He's more worried about us getting beaten up than I am.

"One thing I've always tried to do is to show the players what they have to do to play at this level. When you play quality teams, it raises the quality of your program, even in a loss."

Dickman has surrounded himself with good people, including assistant coach Terry Connolly - another Starkey disciple who previously coached at Urbana High.

Nearly half of the players on the Hood roster are from Frederick County and all but two played their high school ball in Maryland.

Junior Michael Foreman, one of Dickman's former players at TJ, played his first game for Hood Saturday against Shepherd. He said he hasn't noticed much of a difference in the coach's demeanor from his old job to the new.

"No, he's still the same guy," Foreman said. "That fire ain't going anywhere. It's burning in him just as big as it ever was."

Dickman said he has been refreshed by the change of scenery, although the scenery hasn't really changed that much. Hood will play all of its home games in the Thomas Johnson gymnasium this season.

That technicality aside, he welcomes every challenge that comes at him in his new post.

"Every day I'm reinvigorated, ready to get in and get my hands dirty and see what we can get done today," Dickman said.

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