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'No place like home' - Truax named HCC men's basketball coach

April 28, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

The more Terry Truax evolved, the more he recognized his roots.

At 62, he's come to believe you can take the boy out of Washington County, but you can't take Washington County out of the boy.

That became one of the biggest factors for Truax to make a return to the area and become the new head basketball coach at Hagerstown Community College. After many years away - including a 14-year stint at then-Towson State University - Truax came home Saturday when he officially accepted the Hawks' job at a morning news conference.

"This is an honor," Truax said. "I have had to work hard to say 'HCC' because it was HJC, Hagerstown Junior College, years ago. But I like it as a community now and to connect the dots from the students to the community. I liked it when I was coming back. It had the same feel. I was coming up I-81 and got the same radio stations. The people are the same."

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People, academics, community, rebuilding a program and getting back to his roots all were driving forces for Truax as he decided to come back after spending the last few years as an English professor and basketball coach at Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C.

For HCC, Truax symbolized the perfect image it wanted to present in rebuilding its basketball program and returning it to the national presence it enjoyed in the 1990s. And yet, it wants to do it the right way.

"Today is a momentous day for HCC," athletic director Robert "Bo" Myers said. "This has been an odyssey. This is a storied program, and we wanted to hire a coach that would show our image - that we are a national program with class."

Myers said Truax was selected from a field of 30 formal applicants and another 25 who had expressed interest in the job. Truax distanced himself as a clear-cut choice to replace Kenny Keyes, who resigned the position in March after five years and an overall record of 72-71.

"When I made contact with Terry, he told me he'd like to return home," Myers said. "After Terry was interviewed for the first time by our college president, Guy Altieri, (Friday), he called and told me, 'I couldn't agree more with your unanimous choice.'"

Truax is a Hancock native, who graduated in 1962 after playing for Jim Brown, the former HCC men's coach. He said he was interested in the position when Brown retired in 2003, but didn't apply.

"Everything happens for a reason," Truax said.

He left Hancock to play at the University of Maryland on the same teams as Terrapins coach Gary Williams.

From there, Truax has been through a whirlwind of coaching opportunities, ranging from an assistant at DeMatha High School with Morgan Wootten, to an assistant at North Carolina under Dean Smith and various assistant positions at Virginia, Colorado, Florida and Mississippi State before landing his own head coaching job at Towson.

Truax led the Tigers to a record of 202-203 from 1983-97, and made two trips to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

From there, he coached the Baltimore BayRunners in the professional International Basketball League, and coached internationally in South Korea, a 12-year-old recreational league girls team and at Yeshivat Rambam, a Jewish school in Northwest Baltimore, before taking the Patterson position to keep his family close to his daughter, who is attending the University of Georgia.

The whole experience shaped Truax's philosophy and belief in coaching.

"I think most coaches are way overpaid, teachers are underpaid and ADs, well, they get to use the physical fitness centers," Truax joked. "There are three reasons for coaching success - the coach, recruiting and the schedule, and probably not in that order. I coached the same way at Towson, but didn't take off until a guy named Kurk Lee came along.

"Coaches who win 100 games aren't special. It means they have good assistants. Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Caring will be a major part of the new HCC program. While HCC's search committee was impressed with Truax's rsum, references and vast basketball knowledge, the idea of having a hometown coach who believes in the school's academic image was just as impressive.

"The long-range goal is to go to the NCAA, or to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., here," Truax said. "It took us seven years to go to the tournament at Towson. But kids earned degrees. We want to have kids here who are reliable, accountable student-athletes. Winning will come, but you have to start with character."

And this time, it will start at home for Terry Truax.

"I see coming here as a chance to give something back. I think I can," Truax said. "Where I have lived has been good, but I made my decisions because of the people who were there and their integrity. This is very special. It's like Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' ... There's no place like home."

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