Garrick Brings No-nonsense Approach, Intense Work Ethic to UML Hoop Job
LOWELL -- As a basketball player, Tom Garrick certainly had considerable talent, but he never tricked himself into thinking it would be enough to carry him to where he wanted to go.
He viewed relentless hard work as his ticket to hardwood success. And the further he got in his playing career, the more maniacal he got about that philosophy.
“I was always going to try to outwork you,” said Garrick. “I was going to bite and scratch to be successful and I found that most people don’t want to be that committed. I would play hard and I knew in my head and in my heart that there was going to be a point in that game when I would outlast my opponent.”
Garrick was only offered one Division 1 scholarship coming out of West Warwick (R.I.) High School and it was to the nearby University of Rhode Island.
However, the 6-foot-2 guard blossomed at URI and was able to parlay his determination into an excellent college career (1984-88) that saw him lead the Rams to a surprising Sweet 16 run in 1988 and rank among the program’s all-time leaders in points (14th), assists (fifth) and steals (third).
The URI Hall of Famer was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round (45th overall) of 1988 NBA Draft and went on to play four years (251 career games) in the NBA and then professionally overseas.
He’s proof of the power of hard work and dedication. Now 51 years old, Garrick will try to instill those same principles into his program as the head coach of the UMass Lowell women’s basketball team.
“It’s what I know and I know it can be successful,” said Garrick, who averaged 20.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a senior at URI.
Garrick was hired by UML earlier this month, replacing Jenerrie Harris, whose contract was not renewed after the River Hawks went 4-26 (1-15 America East) in 2017-18 and went just 11-76 over the past three seasons.
Garrick, who resides in Marlboro, appears to be a slam-dunk hire. He has an impressive coaching resume that includes a lengthy stint as the women’s head coach at URI (2003-09) and stints as a women’s assistant coach at Vanderbilt (2009-15) and most recently Boston College (2015-18).
He thinks that experience might give him a little more cache with his team than his playing career, which also garnered him the honor of being named an Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Legend last year.
“These kids aren’t going to know who I was as a player unless they Google it,” said Garrick.
Rest assured that Garrick plans to have his team’s full attention on the court, and plans to be up-front with what he expects from his players.
“I’m going to pin-point our strengths and weaknesses,” said Garrick. “I like defense and turning defense into offense. I like the open-court offensive style. Like John Wooden used to say, ‘give me five people who can pass, dribble and shoot, and we’ll have a great offense.’ We’re going to play hard with structure and discipline. We’re going to teach basketball but also how to be functioning human beings in all walks of life.
“I’ve had two workouts with the players already and there’s a lot of room for growth. The cupboard isn’t bare and we can really make some inroads. There’s pieces to build on and we can make some progress -- I want these players to understand that. We’re trying to get things done right here, right now.”
Garrick highlighted that he wants UMass Lowell’s conditioning to be top-notch. He noted one thing that jumped out to him from the film he has watched from the River Hawks’ play last season was that they would often be competitive for three quarters before fading away in the fourth.
The UMass Lowell administration certainly believes in Garrick’s ability to follow-through on his plans.
“I have followed Tom’s career for many years, dating back to his days as an outstanding player who made it to the NBA, and throughout his coaching positions in the A-10, SEC and ACC,” said UMass Lowell Athletic Director Dana Skinner when he announced Garrick’s hiring. “His breadth of experience in Division 1 and the fact that he is so highly regarded at every stop he’s made in his coaching career made him the choice over a number of outstanding candidates.”
For Garrick, the opportunity was a no-brainer. He already lived in the area and has a long history of recruiting the region.
“I think that UMass Lowell is a burgeoning flower,” said Garrick. “The athletics department, behind Dana Skinner, is taking major steps forward and building on its tradition. Sure, Lowell is a mill town but it’s its own nice little entity and has Boston as an accent piece -- you’re not far away.
“It’s tough to recruit everywhere, but it’s how you look at it. Recruits want to play for someone they believe in. In talking with Dana during the interview process it was clear that there is enthusiasm about this program and what it could become. We don’t want this to be the little engine that could.”
Garrick got started coaching in the women’s game because it was the first coaching opportunity presented to him. He immediately enjoyed it. He says women’s players are very coachable and accountable, which makes the job fun and rewarding.
He also grew up in a household with seven women -- his mother and six sisters. Garrick’s father, Tom Sr., was blinded when he stepped on a mine in Germany during World War II. He followed his son’s playing career closely without ever actually being able to see him play.
There’s another lady on the way for the Garrick family, as Tom and his fiancé are expecting a baby daughter in June. When asked if that inevitable sleep deprivation will wear on Garrick next basketball season, he quickly shot that notion down.
“It’ll balance me out and enhance me,” said Garrick. “I want my girl to come and see our team practice and play, and for the ladies playing for me to see that there’s more to life than basketball.”
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone