The Sixth Man

The unspeakable grief of the Collier family was alleviated for a few hours. Norwich head basketball coach, Tom Collier, raised the warmup shirt of his late daughter Krissie toward his wife and family after the Tornado made a miraculous comeback Friday night at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena to win the schoolís fifth Section IV championship.

The warmup shirt served as reminder for Tom, whose daughter suddenly - and tragically - passed away May 31 last year, just 3 1/2 weeks before her 20th birthday.

Basketball was one of the many bonds Tom shared with his daughter. A lifelong sports lover, all of Tomís children - Brian, Ali, and Krissie - played varsity sports for Norwich High School. Like most parents, Tom delighted in his kidsí achievements whether it was on the playing field or in the classroom. A basketball coach for over 20 years, Tom broke with conventional wisdom and preferred to not coach his own kids whenever that was possible. As a longtime volunteer in the Norwich AAU basketball program, sometimes coaching his son or daughters was unavoidable. When it came to the Norwich High School teams, Tom happily sat in the bleachers watching games like any other supportive parent.

Tom had a philosophy when it came to coaching your own kids. He knew through experience that it is difficult to coach your son or daughter. All eyes are fixed on the coach/child relationship be it in practice or in the game. Will the coach be perceived as too hard or too easy on his child? That is a difficult balance to strike, and many coaches err on the side of treating their flesh and blood too harshly. Discipline aside, the son or daughter has also heard the same messages from his coach/father for years. At some point, itís natural for the child to just tune his parent out.

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