Today's Spotlight: Tom Garrick

Oct. 27, 2013

Associate Head Coach
West Warwick, R.I.

Vanderbilt associate head coach Tom Garrick still looks like he could run the floor for an NBA team. But he swears his playing days are over. He says he can't even be enticed to join pick-up games.

For one thing, Garrick - who joined Vanderbilt's staff as an assistant coach in the summer of 2009 and was promoted to associate head coach in 2013 - simply doesn't have much free time. And secondly, he doesn't want to risk suffering an injury that would impede his coaching role.

Garrick played four seasons in the NBA, beginning in 1988. He also played professionally in Germany, Turkey and Spain.

Not long after retiring, Garrick entered the coaching ranks, returning to his alma mater, Rhode Island. He spent 11 seasons there, working on the men's staff for the first few years and later joining the women's coaching staff, including serving as the Lady Rams head coach from 2005-09.

At Vanderbilt, Garrick focuses on working with the team's guards.

Today, Garrick is in the spotlight as we continue our Countdown to Tipoff -- a two-week preview package that will feature a different player or coach each day. Garrick recently sat down for an interview with to talk about the coming season and a few other topics. Here's what he had to say:


QUESTION: Do you still get to play much basketball - any pick-up games or anything like that?
GARRICK: : No, I don't play much anymore. I think I'm trying to be smarter in my approach and have less bravado. As an athlete, as a male athlete, as a former professional athlete, that's maybe 80 percent of your game is the confidence and the belief that I can do whatever I set my mind to. God gave me this vessel and I'm going to utilize it. I can run and jump all day. I can body up; I can get physical. At 47, you have to be a little smarter. I'm trying to utilize that in the way I did my confidence or my cockiness. I'm trying to be smarter with it and put it out front. It would really, really stink to walk around injured at this point in my life. As much as I do want to play ... I'm a little more judicious in my efforts.

QUESTION: What are one or two biggest challenges of coaching at Vanderbilt that are different than other schools?
GARRICK: : I think the main one is a positive challenge is the academic piece. (And here) it's just the lay of the land. It's what we have to deal with. I like it personally because I'd rather deal with kids who are more Type-A then not, who are self-motivated and you don't have to kick them in the pants every day to be their best version of themselves. A lot of these kids that come to Vanderbilt are already highly motivated, highly self-motivated. They want that same result on the court as they want in the classroom. So I think it can be an advantage in most regards.

QUESTION: During your playing career in college and the NBA, did you envision yourself becoming a coach?
GARRICK: : No, I don't think (so). When you're a player, it consumes all of your thoughts. You're worried about getting better, you're worried about keeping your spot, you're worried about maintaining and moving forward. After I was coming towards the end of my career and my body started to fail me a little bit more than it had in the past, I realized that I liked the subtle nuances of the game, the mental part of the game, the mental aspect. I realized that's what kept me playing for so long, not just my physicality but the idea that I could think the game and understand it on a different level. And being able to really help my younger relatives as they were coming through AAU and high school and see the different side of the game and help them with the mental aspects of the game. That's when I realized it's fun teaching it also. It's just as much fun to see someone else get better with the instruction that you can provide them then it is to get better yourself. I found a joy in that way.

QUESTION: You have worked with some outstanding guards at Vanderbilt. How gratifying has it been to see those players come in as really good players and leave as even better players?
GARRICK: : It's a great feeling to see someone become more efficient, to become more productive, become more knowledgeable and to see the look in their eye when they get it. It's like having a little child and every day they are learning something new. You see them get more clever, you see them get more confident. Sometimes it takes two years, sometimes it takes four years. Sometimes you don't realize it until they're 10 years out of college and they come back and say, "Hey Coach, remember when we did this. That helped me so much." It's a really gratifying feeling and very rewarding and I think that's the best feeling. Winning is great; we all love to win. We're all winners. If we've gotten this far, we've had our share of winning and we know what that feels like. But to help someone realize their goals, I think it's the most gratifying. As much as we're teaching basketball, we're kind of an extension of the family and if we can see them grow to better young adults, that's the most worthwhile feeling you can have.

QUESTION: What do you enjoy doing away from basketball?
GARRICK: : I'm really kind of boring. I'm an all-basketball kind of guy. ... I stopped playing baseball and football in high school. I don't golf, (and) I don't really have a lot of extra circular activities. If I can relax, I'm in heaven because this business keeps us going 24-7. We're accountable to a lot of people for a lot of time. If I can just get home and relax or just go for a long drive, that's pretty relaxing to me. Just to be able to decompress for any amount of time you can is much more relaxing than chasing a little ball through the woods. Relaxing to me is watching, believe it or not, basketball. ... I can do that all day.



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