SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT: Final Four Basketball Coach Tom Wasdin is Brevard Sports Ambassador
By Charles Parker // April 28, 2023
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
WATCH: In the book about his life – written by local journalist and fellow Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Peter Kerasotis – Once a Coach, Always a Coach – it said, “Wasdin appreciated the job and opportunity to impact lives at such a young age, when the clay is soft and moldable.
TOM WASDIN – 2015 INDUCTEE: NCAA Final Four Basketball Coach, Cocoa Beach Basketball Coach, Brevard Sports Ambassador
ALWAYS A COACH
Wasdinisms – they flow from Tom Wasdin effortlessly as he talks of sports and life:
■ “It is better for other people to brag on you, than for you to brag on yourself.”
■ “Surround yourself with positive people you enjoy, admire, trust and respect.”
■ “Always do more than people expect from you. Never do less.”
And he has been offering these and thousands of other pieces of advice for well over a half a century.
Wasdin’s resume in sports and business matches the Cocoa Village riverfront condo where he and his wife Susie reside – expansive and impressive.
After growing up in Waldo, Florida and graduating in 1958 from the University of Florida, he began his life’s professional journey in Jacksonville as a physical education resource teacher in five elementary schools.
His job was to teach teachers to teach PE.
In the book about his life – written by local journalist and fellow Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Peter Kerasotis – Once a Coach, Always a Coach – it said, “Wasdin appreciated the job and opportunity to impact lives at such a young age, when the clay is soft and moldable.
“It was the genesis of his coaching career, one that in a little more than a decade would take him all the way to college basketball’s National Championship Game, going against John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.”
In between his first job as head basketball coach at Paxon High School and the culmination of his coaching career as the winningest coach in Jacksonville University history, Wasdin came to the Space Coast as the basketball and golf coach at Cocoa Beach High School in 1964 at the height of the space race.
“They offered me a salary of $5,800 a year, which was more than Glenda (his first wife) and I were making together in Jacksonville.”
Though after two years Wasdin was lured back to Jacksonville, his Space Coast roots remained strong and he returned in the summers to play softball with his new friend and future business partner Rick Stottler.
And then – after a run at the NCAA championship as an assistant coach and a successful three years as head coach – Wasdin returned to Cocoa Beach to start a new phase of his life – businessman.
But while his career in Brevard since that final move in the 1970s has consisted of developing and promoting the Cocoa Beach Pier and Cocoa Expo as well as nearly 1,000 condominium units, his love for sports has sustained him.
“A few years back they tried to eliminate sports from Brevard Community College,” Wasdin said.
“We knew the students wanted it, so I and a few others formed a committee to save athletics there.
“I’ve seen almost every basketball team play at BCC (now Eastern Florida State College) since the program’s inception. I still love going to the games and mentoring their coaches,” he said.
In fact, Wasdin travelled to Kansas this year to watch EFSC play in the NJCAA National Tournament.
His group won the day. And Eastern Florida State College has a hugely successful athletic program – particularly in baseball, soccer, golf – and, of course, basketball.
“My faith and lessons I learned as a player and coach helped me to overcome obstacles. I would like to be remembered as someone who is a giver – someone who helps others be as good as they can be.”
Wasdin – now in his late 70s – is not slowing down much and is still a driving force in tourism and sports on the Space Coast. And he’s still teaching and coaching…just in a different way.
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