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Tom Henson

Coaching is in his blood

By KARL PEARSON
Staff Writer

Having a passion for something is important to any individual. Tom Henson freely admits that, next to his family, coaching is his.

"I have always loved coaching," the Grand Valley High School athletic director and head football coach said. "I have always loved being around kids and sports. It's just a love of the game.

"Many people have asked me why I haven't gone into administration. That's not what I love to do. Coaching is what's important to me."

It's pretty obvious coaching is in the blood of the 1966 GV graduate. At 59 years old, many other persons who have expressed a similar love of coaching are long gone from the scene, but Henson just keeps churning away in the profession, with no foreseeable end in sight.

Coaching is what Henson feels is his legacy. Although he has been the head football coach at his alma mater for two seasons, and spent 25 years before that as the top assistant to his brother, Ashtabula County Football Hall of Fame member Jim Henson, it is not necessarily for those factors that he is best known.

For 29 years, and until the conclusion of the 2003-04 season, Tom Henson was the head boys basketball coach at GV, a feat no other boys or girls coach in Ashtabula County has matched. In that time, he accumulated a record of 293-323 for a .476 winning percentage, claiming three championships in the conferences in which the Mustangs competed in that period, winning four sectional championships and reaching the district-championship game twice.

Henson ranks sixth all-time among all Ashtabula County basketball coaches and fifth among county boys coaches. He trails only Jefferson girls coach Rod Holmes and Hall of Fame boys coaches Bob Ball of Ashtabula, Jon Hall of Edgewood, Andy Garcia of Conneaut and Bill Koval of Geneva.

Those factors have led to his inclusion in the 2007 class of inductees into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame, which will take place April 1 at 6 p.m. at the Conneaut Human Resources Center. He will be one of 12 persons inducted that day.

In many ways, Henson is uncomfortable to be joining such company.

"I was shocked when I was told," he said. "I don't think my record compares to those coaches. I think my longevity does.

"There have been so many great players and great coaches that have come through this county. I'm proud that other people felt I had done something to be a part of their group. That group includes a lot of great people that have done a lot of positive things for Ashtabula County."

Although he's generally associated with Grand Valley, Henson first became connected to basketball at another school, the old Deming school.

"I first remember playing in the fourth grade," he said. "Linc Jerome's grandmother had our class and she used to set up the teams for us to ball and let us play."

It was pretty much the mode in which the Henson brothers continued in the game into junior high.

"Seventh grade was the first organized ball I played," Henson said. "That was when I was still at Deming. In the eighth grade, they consolidated everything and I ended up playing at the old Grand Valley Middle School. That's where it all sort of fell into place."

In his freshman year at GV, Henson made his first connection to a family that would later impact on his coaching career.

"My freshman coach was Carl Paskey, who was Nate's dad," he said. "I also played a couple JV games and he was my coach for that, too. In my sophomore year, I played JV and dressed varsity."

The varsity coach throughout Henson's career was Bill Young. Henson was the point guard in his junior and senior seasons.

"When I was a junior, the big stars were Larry Bates and (present Newbury girls basketball coach) Bob Johnson," he said. "I just had to get the ball to them.

"My senior year, I was the only returning letterman. (GV coaching colleague) Ron Chutas was the post. I'd could dribble penetrate for a layup or kick the ball out to Ron if I was double-teamed. I was confident he would score. It was easy to get him the ball. He and I played well together. He was my best friend in school."

The Mustangs had a good season Henson's junior year and seemed to be headed to a better record early in his senior season.

"My senior year started out great and ended in disaster," he said. "I was leading the county in scoring through the first six or seven games, but I injured my hip and was laid up after that until tournament time.