Tom Bryant, Centre's winningest basketball coach, passes away
RELEASED: Nov. 10, 2005
DANVILLE, KYTom Bryant, retired Centre College men's basketball coach and athletic director, died Monday, Nov. 7.
"Tom Bryant was a rare combination of fierce competitiveness tempered by a strong sense of fair play," says Hazelrigg Professor Emeritus of French Charles Vahlkamp, who had a longtime involvement in Centre athletics, both as coach and faculty representative to the NCAA . "He taught basketball as well as sportsmanship (a word we don't hear enough of these days) and teamwork. He insisted that his teams play the game the right way and that his players strive for the good of the team and not call undue attention to themselves as individuals. This approach resulted often in victories over teams with far greater talent. Tom's teams were a pleasure to watch, win or lose. He belongs in a coaches' Hall of Fame."
"Tom Bryant came to Centre in 1968, two years after I came, and we overlapped from then until his retirement," says Rodes Professor Emeritus of Religion Eric Mount. "We had a multi-faceted relationship, and it was nearly always a highly enjoyable one. When I was coaching the men's tennis team with Milton Scarborough, he was our athletics director. When I was vice president and dean of students, I was responsible for athletics, so Tom reported to me. We competed with and against each other in volleyball and tennis. I was one of his greatest fans as a basketball coach. As college chaplain, I sometimes had a pastoral relationship with him during health crises and other tough times in his life. The consistent thread that extended through all of these roles and shifts in our relationship was our friendship. And if I were to cite the most prominent characteristic of that friendship, it would be the ongoing pleasure we found in passing insults back and forth—always in each other's presence. We always knew that real affection lay behind the joshing and the barbs, and I always knew that a truly sensitive and conscientious human being lay behind the sometimes-stern exterior that he could display on occasion.
"Tom Bryant meant a lot to the basketball program and the total athletic department at Centre for a long time," said Matt Vonderbrink '80, in a press release about the dedication of the Sutcliffe Athletic Center floor, which was named in Bryant's honor in 2004.
"He also meant a lot to me personally," added Vonderbrink, Centre's coordinator of recreation and men's tennis coach, who played basketball for Bryant. "He led the basketball program during a run that may be the most successful sustained period of any athletic program here at Centre. During the late '70s and '80s, Centre was always in the hunt for the conference championship and often highly ranked nationally. His team-oriented style of play was a trademark of his squads and his philosophy. Tom was very demanding of that style from his players. He also was athletic director during a highly successful period for many other sports here at Centre. His leadership in attracting quality coaches and giving them the means to succeed was significant. He personally came to my high school games and recruited me to attend Centre and has helped me in most of my professional opportunities."
Bryant had a record 382 victories as the men's basketball coach from 1968 to 1996. He guided the Colonels to two NCAA Division III "Final Fours" (1979 and 1989). His teams won 15 conference championships and reached the Division III tournament nine times. Centre named him an honorary member of its Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches named Bryant Kodak Coach of the Year in the South District eight times.
In addition to coaching basketball, Bryant was Centre's athletic director for 21 years.
A 1955 graduate of Miami of Ohio, Bryant had successful coaching stints at Colerain, Hillsboro and Walnut Township high schools in Ohio before becoming the head coach at Centre. He's a member of the Miami of Ohio University Athletic Hall of Fame and the Ohio Coaches Hall of Fame. Bryant was a starter on three Miami teams that won conference championships. He was a team MVP and also named to the Mid-America All-Conference team.
Bryant had served on the Danville City Council, the Danville-Boyle County Recreation Board, the Kentucky High School Athletic Board of Control, and the NCAA Rules Committee.
The funeral was Thursday, Nov. 10, at Centenary United Methodist Church, Danville.
Memorial gifts may be made to the following:
Those wishing to submit remembrances should send them to Cindy Long in the Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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