By CHRIS LARICK
When Tom Carr first began his officiating career, he quickly discovered that determining basketball rules was not an exact science.
“It’s a fine line,” Carr said of the decisions a basketball official has to make many times a game. “If you miss (a call), you miss it. You have to get past that; you have to deal with it.”
It is largely for his 31 years of officiating basketball that the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation chose him for its Hall of Fame as a contributor, though Carr has coaching credentials in his Ashtabula County portfolio as well.
Carr had never even heard of Ashtabula when job-hunting after a stint in the U.S. Army.
“I got married (to Ann) in 1971,” Carr said. “We were sitting around my wife’s parents’ table in Newcastle (Pa.) looking at a placement bulletin. I saw a social studies position, which is what I had my degree in, with an assistant basketball and football coach (position).
“I had to look up Ashtabula on the map. I had never heard of it. I came up here in July and interviewed for it.”
Ashtabula wanted Carr as an assistant for Bob Walters in basketball and Wash Lyons in football. The main problem was that Carr had no experience whatever with football, not even playing it. But he got the job anyway, assisted Lyons for a year, and Walters for eight, one as freshman coach and the other seven as junior varsity coach.
“I didn’t know the game of football at all,” Carr said. “I freely admitted that to them.”
But Carr did know basketball. He had started for North Allegheny, Pa., on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, as a junior and senior. That was a much larger school than any in our area, with more than 900 students in Carr’s class. Carr was a 6-foot shooting guard for the team, scoring about 10 points per game as a junior and 16 as a senior. Northern Allegheny won its sectional in Carr’s junior year, but was not as good the year he graduated.
“Our junior-year team had three starters playing college basketball and two who started in college in football,” he said. “I was the only junior in the starting lineup.”
After his high-school graduation Carr moved on to Edinboro University, where he played basketball all four years.
He graduated from Edinboro in 1970 and was immediately drafted into the army. Though the Vietnam War was raging at the time, Carr was fortunate enough to be assigned to Germany. He married after basic training, and his wife, Ann, was able to join him in Germany. In 1972 he was honorably discharged and began job-seeking.
The Panthers freshman team he coached his first year was “extra-talented,” Carr said, including (now Edgewood coach) John Bowler, Paul Stofan, Bill Osborne, Larry Johnson, Dale Miller, Jim Parker and Tony Siler. Carr got by as a freshman football coach, assisting Dave DeLeone.
After eight years as basketball coach, Tom and Ann, who already had a five-year old daughter, Julie, had twin sons, David and Douglas. Tom felt it was time he helped more with the kids’ upraising.
“It was too much,” he said of coaching along with those responsibilities. “I needed to help my wife out. (Basketball coaching) took a lot of time.”
Carr did continue as head golf coach at Ashtabula, which he had done since 1974, and continued until his career reached 25 years for the Panthers in 2000. His teams won golf championships in 1994 and 1996 in the Northeastern Conference, a very competitive league in that sport. His 1994 team that included Jeff Piscura, Eric Koski, Ryan Richards, Mike Partridge and David Carr, made it to the state tournament.
“We had some good teams and some very good individuals in golf over the years,” Carr said of NEC teams.
He continues to keep involved with golf by working at the counter at Maple Ridge Golf Course in the summers..
In 1985 Carr began his longtime basketball officiating career. His first supervisor, Madison’s Bud Ruland, was nearing the end of a stellar officiating career, including a stint as a Big Ten football official at the time.
Like most new officials, Carr began work as a junior high official, though it wasn’t long until he moved up to high school games.
“It was a lot of work, but I spent a good number of years doing that,” he said. “I’d been involved with basketball since I can remember. It’s the only sport I played, every day of my life. I really enjoy the game and I enjoyed officiating as well. I met a lot of good people officiating.”
After Ruland retired from officiating, Phil Garcia took over as officiating supervisor for this area.
“Phil treated me fabulously,” Carr said. “For the last 10 years I did only varsity games with three officials. That’s so much better (than two officials) and helps the game so much. It gives you more perspective on things. I had a feeling for the game and treated it as what it is, a contact sport.”
Always in good shape, Carr lasted longer than most officials, until he was 68 in 2016.
“I knew I would officiate until I couldn’t do it correctly,” he said. “When I got to (the age of) 68, I knew it was time to stop."
“I did get to officiate at the state tournament at Schottenstein Arena in 2007,” he said.
Tom met his wife, Ann, who taught art at Ashtabula and Lakeside high schools, at Edinboro. Of their three children, Julie, the oldest, a Bowling Green State University graduate, is an administrator in the Riverside school system. Of the twin sons, Douglas, an Ohio State graduate, works for Marathon as a supervisor in I.T. David, a Vanderbilt University graduate and an Ohio State Medical School graduate, is now a surgeon with Ohio State University’s dermatology department.