Legends Spotlight: Tom Hoover

June 27, 2017

Last weekend the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at the Edward Byrne Center in Jamaica, NY, as well as an NBA Fit clinic as a part of Dew3X event at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, NY, including Tiny Archibald/Tony Campbell/Teresa Edwards/Kym Hampton/Tom Hoover/Bobby Hunter/Albert King/Harthorne Wingo/Sam Worthen. The Full Court Press program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Tom Hoover about his role with the Full Court Press program and his work as president of the NBRPA’s New York chapter.

How do you try to connect with the kids on the court? That is the easiest part! Kids are always looking for that person who has done something that they are trying to achieve: it is very alluring if the person happens to be a former star player. If you just look the kids in the face then there will be no issues.

What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? We had some guys with championships like Tony Campbell who taught the kids about preparing yourself mentally to play the game. The game is a carrot but the key is education: you have to graduate, start your career, and do something positive with your life.

What was your transition like going from active player to retired player? It was easy back in the day if you were honest with yourself, but if you thought that you could continue the journey forever you would learn that nothing lasts. It is easy to accept reality once you realize that you cannot do the things that you used to do: you start breaking down and it takes longer to heal. When the young guys run right past you then you know it is time: just like the Cleveland Cavaliers!

You currently serve as president of the New York Chapter of the NBRPA: why did you take the job and what have you been able to accomplish so far? I was on the board and when they moved the national office from New York to Chicago I felt that New York needed its own chapter. We go into the community and work on wholesome projects as a way of giving back: Christmas parties for kids with AIDS, Thanksgiving parties for survivors of domestic violence, and we also went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, to do a clinic for the kids who survived that tragedy in 2012. We have a food pantry in Red Hook that gives food to the needy and we partnered with an organization in Senegal to send food/educational materials overseas and raise money for solar panels.

You went to Archbishop Carroll High School in DC, where you partnered with future Hall of Fame coach John Thompson and future Notre Dame president Edward “Monk” Malloy to help win 55 straight games: could you tell at the time that you and your teammates were going to achieve even bigger and better things? You cannot tell for sure because life is funny: you just have to keep opening doors and keep going in the right direction. Who could have known that Monk/John would become as successful as they have? I remember when John got his 1st coaching job at St. Anthony High School in DC: we laughed and wondered if he would really do it.

What made you choose Villanova for college, and how did you like it? We had a priest in high school who taught mechanical engineering and he convinced me that Villanova was the place to go. I had a good time there: it is a good school.

In the spring of 1963 you were drafted 6th overall by Syracuse (4 spots ahead of Gus Johnson): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? It meant that I did not have to work the midnight shift at a paper company in Philly! I had become close with Wilt Chamberlain and he told me about what to expect if I got drafted.

You made the 1966 NBA Finals as a player for the Lakers: how close did you come to winning the title (2-PT loss in Game 7 at Boston Garden)? When you played in Boston there were all kinds of things to worry about such as the locker rooms. It was a Sunday afternoon and we all thought that we could win the game but it did not go in our favor.

In 1967 you joined the ABA: why did you make the switch, and what was the biggest difference between the 2 leagues? I made the switch because I was making $15,000 with the Lakers and Denver offered me $30,000. There was no difference in terms of talent with Hall of Famers like Mel Daniels/Connie Hawkins. The ABA ball was a little lighter and they also had a 3-PT line.

After retiring you had a number of fascinating jobs:
a. You worked as a road manager for Richard Pryor: did you just hang out all day laughing at everything that came out of his mouth? A road manager is like a babysitter: you are the last guy to go to bed and the 1st guy to wake up in the morning. Hanging out with Richard was crazy: trying to be civil just did not work! 1 time we were on the East Coast getting ready to fly back to LA and he was screaming at me to hold the plane because he was on the way. He did not understand that airlines leave without waiting for people who are running late: he was nuts.
b. You spent some time as an actor in television commercials: did you hope that it would turn into a long-term 2nd career? It was just for fun. You have to know your limitations: I was lucky enough to get a check but I was not an actor.
c. You also worked for the New York State Athletic Commission: are you a big boxing fan, and are you picking Mayweather or McGregor this summer?! I rose through the organization to become a deputy chairman before leaving last year. I do not have either guy: it is just a pay-per-view sham because Floyd wants to get paid but does not want to mess up his perfect record.