Longtime Assistant Howard Mentors BCC Athletes
By Space Coast Daily // July 21, 2012
Works Behind The Scenes
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – In the Brevard Community College athletic department he’s simply known as “Mr. Tom.”
Athletic assistant Tom Howard, 79, brings a varied set of skills to his role as the department’s man behind the scenes.
He has more than 20 years’ experience as a basketball coach and was a first-team all-state player at Bergen Community College in Teaneck, N.J. He also played in the Army at Fort Gordon, Ga. and in primitive, bone-chilling conditions in Korea, Japan and Okinawa for the Army’s I Corps All-Star team in 1957.
Athletically he also was a runner and a diver. Professionally, he spent 10 years with then Pan Am in supply at Cape Canaveral, worked in computer support at Harris Corp. in Melbourne for 27 years and had two stints as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Melbourne’s Florida Institute of Technology, first under Art Loach and then for Andy Russo.
A Melbourne resident, Howard has worked in the BCC Athletics Department for 13 years, including two stints as an assistant basketball coach, from 1995-1997 with the men’s team under head coach Don Smith and then one year with the women under Paulette King.
Now he works from his cubbyhole office in Building 6 on BCC’s Melbourne campus, which he jokingly refers to as an extension of “Sanford and Son” — the popular 1970s sitcom about junk dealer Fred Sanford and his son Lamont.
Sitting amidst the tools of his trade — carts, boxes, sports drink containers, a broom and other items — Howard flows through the day to the rhythms of his treasured classic jazz collection which is usually playing softly in the background.
His responsibilities range from maintaining and laundering team uniforms, ensuring the maintenance of travel vans, coordinating team travel, and assisting the athletic director as needed whether it be submitting maintenance work orders for the athletics office, getting the mail or setting up the gym for games.
Howard also serves as a mentor for student-athletes, all in just 20 hours a week.
Because he loves the athletic environment, he loves his co-workers and the students and he firmly believes he still has a lot to offer.
To that end he is always willing to share his handwritten sheet of 21 basketball moves ranging from stutter stepping to stop-and-go and stopping and reversing for a bank shot, all skills he acquired and honed over his years in the game.
And he is always willing to share the wisdom of his years.
That resonated with head golf coach Jamie Howell.
“Tom Howard fills the role so many athletic programs take for granted: a connection to the past as well as everyone’s helper,” Howell said. “He can be found sitting silently in the stands, usually alone, at home games rooting on our teams as well offering thoughts to anyone who may be within earshot. His wisdom from years of coaching are sometimes lost on today’s youth, as it can seem archaic and not ready for ESPN’s “Play of the Day” material.
“Tom Howard is a reminder to all of us that service to our fellow man is what life is all about and he is setting the example every day he is at his job at BCC.” Jamie Howell, head golf coach for Brevard Community College
“When the games are over Tom is greeted by piles of dirty uniforms and is destined to many hours in the athletic laundry room tending to washing, drying, folding and hanging any uniforms left to his care. While his job may seem menial to the masses, his sense of urgency and commitment to the program is what drives him to take part and feel a sense of value to our programs.
“Many of today’s retirees struggle with life after a career has ended and life no longer offers the challenge of daily responsibilities. Tom Howard is a reminder to all of us that service to our fellow man is what life is all about and he is setting the example every day he is at his job at BCC,” Howell said.
Howard moved to Melbourne in 1959 to work for Pan Am and still lives in the same house in the Sherwood Park subdivision. He was married to wife Nona for 52 years before she passed away five years ago.
He stays busy attending jazz shows and stage musicals and working, which he said he plans to do for as long as he can.
“I enjoy interacting with people,” Howard said.
And they enjoy interacting with him.
“Mr. Howard is a very hard worker behind the scenes,” BCC Athletic Director Jeff Carr said. “He has his hands in lots of different things. Mr. Howard is the unsung hero in the Athletic Department.”
Florida Tech Athletic Director Bill Jurgens agrees.
“In serving as an assistant coach at FIT, Tom was strongly committed to the team’s success and was always a positive influence on our student-athletes,” Jurgens said.
So what does the future hold for Howard and BCC?
“I’m not going to give this up,” he said. “I think I’m still in good enough health that I can handle it.”
As for the college: “I’m looking forward to getting a winning tradition established again,” he said. “We were down for so long.”