Garrick ready to help Vandy to victory

A few months into the job as Vanderbilt's newest assistant coach, Tom Garrick is learning what it takes to succeed in Commodore basketball. The Rhode Island native is passionate about positive mindsets and describes what he sees as the main difference in coaching men and women.

New Vanderbilt Assistant Coach Tom Garrick is feeling right at home in Nashville. The former Head Coach of Rhode Island's women's program and four-year NBA pro joined the Commodores in July.

It's not that Rhode Island and Tennessee are so much alike, but the pace for this self described "laid back and even tempered" coach is to his liking. And so is Vanderbilt's nationally prominent program.

Garrick had no close ties to Vanderbilt before accepting the position. "I just knew that Coach [Melanie] Balcomb had built a very successful program in her years here and I was pretty excited to come and join them."

Describing how he will help the program, Garrick said his job and that of the other assistants is to help Coach Balcomb carry out her vision by getting her point across to the team. "We're free to offer our suggestions and she's very good at what she does because she wants input. That's how she builds her program. She hires people she trusts and believes in."

And in just a few months, he has learned how a student athlete at Vanderbilt is different from one who joins a "factory."

"It takes a different kind of kid to play athletics here," he observes. "You have to be self motivated and self reliant and set goals you're trying to achieve. You want something for yourself that's above the norm. I don't want this to sound like it's a snooty or snobby place compared to other schools. It's just that you set a standard for yourself by being accepted here and agreeing to play basketball. Mediocrity isn't acceptable. We want a high academic standard and we're going to maintain it, but it doesn't mean we can't be good athletically also. That's the mission of the Athletic Department and the university as a whole. Whatever we do, we want to be very, very good at it. And that's exciting to be a part of."

Commenting on the recent polls that put the Commodores between No. 9 and No. 20 in the nation, Garrick sees rankings as best used for recruiting, not as a true plumb line for a program.

"Our kids are working their behinds off in the weight room and individual workouts. Even if we weren't ranked, it wouldn't make a difference. We'd still have to play the games. Even then you have to judge where you are on the scales."

The good news related to the polls are the strengths of seasoned starters Meredith Marsh, Jessica Mooney, Hannah Tuomi and Jence Rhoads. "I like our returners," Garrick said, adding that experience and skill will make an impact quickly. "Our freshman will also be a big part of what we do and some will be able to help immediately."

Having coached 11 years at Rhode Island – six years with the men's team and more recently five years with the women – Garrick bravely responds when asked about the main difference between coaching both sexes.

"Women are a little more emotion driven when it comes to athletics. Men compartmentalize a little more. It's good in basketball, but not in life. For athletics men tune the outside world out more than women do. Young women this age tend to deal with an issue until it's resolved, even during practice."

He adds that men are a little more hard headed, and don't take direction as well. "We want to act like we already know it all. Women are more accepting of direction. If they trust and believe in you as a coach, they'll do what you ask."

As the newest assistant coach settles in and continues developing trust, he will do so with a genial personality centered on his life philosophy: "I want to be upbeat and positive in all aspects of my life. There are going to be tough times and you're going to need that foundation and resolve to bounce back. That's hopefully how people would describe me. I want to get to know people and for them to know me."

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