Honoring Legendary Coach Tom Wood: Lumberjack Court Renaming Effort Underway

Jul, 2022
Basketball Coach Tom Wood

He was one of the greatest coaches in University history. He built Lumberjack Basketball into a perennial powerhouse in NCAA Division II over nearly three decades leading the program. His commitment to the community was legendary. Tom Wood built the men’s basketball program into what it is today.  

To honor the coach who passed away in 2016 and to support student-athletes, the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation and a group of community volunteers are working to raise at least $350,000 to rename the court inside Lumberjack Arena ”Tom Wood Court.” All funds raised will support the men's and women's basketball programs through operational and scholarship support.

So far, nearly $300,000  in gifts and commitments have been raised. The deadline to make a contribution is Saturday, July 30 for the court to be renamed for the 2022-23 basketball season.

“Tom really cared about those players,” says Joyce West. An ardent fan of Lumberjacks basketball and lead donor to the Tom Wood Court renaming effort, West has hosted dinners for players at her home for more than a decade. “I’ve seen first-hand the benefit of participating in sports at Humboldt and learning how to work as a team.” 

The renaming is a fitting tribute to a coach with a 463-351 career record, all achieved as head coach at Humboldt. He achieved a 125-19 home record for games played in the Lumberjack Arena and the arena’s predecessor, the East Gym (now Forbes Gym). 

Raised in Humboldt County, Wood was a basketball star at South Fork High School in Miranda and went on to play for UC Davis. His coaching career began at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned his master’s degree in Physical Education. He helped the program achieve three conference titles, two regional championships, and one appearance in the NCAA Division II Final Four.

He built on that success when taking the helm of the men’s program at Humboldt in 1981. Over the next 29 seasons, he guided the Lumberjacks to 11 NCAA postseason appearances. The 2003-04 season was a record-setting year for the program. Under Wood's leadership the program notched its first ever NCAA Division II West Region title and a NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance. The Jacks finished with a program-record 28 wins.

He retired in 2010, the same year he was selected to Humboldt’s Hall of Fame. Wood was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2001-02 and West Region Division II Coach of the Year in 1989-90.

Beyond wins and titles, Wood was determined to help students live up to their full potential on and off the court, through his tough-love approach.

"Interacting with the players, coaching them and preparing them, has been the most rewarding part of this job," Wood said when he announced his retirement in 2010. "That continues with seeing them go on to their own successes in life, and thinking their experience here might have had something to do with that."

In one instance, Wood benched a star player for his back-talk before an important game. The team ended up winning anyway, proving another point. The Lumberjacks were more than just one person—each player is part of a team, says Drew Petersen, the strength and conditioning coach who worked with Wood. 

I thought the student would be bitter but he wasn’t,” Petersen recalls. “He said he wouldn’t play for any other coach on the planet than Coach Wood.”

Jim and Sharon Redd, friends of Wood and significant donors to the naming effort, say the story captured Wood’s coaching philosophy. 

“Those players had that much more respect for him,” Jim Redd says. “The most important thing wasn’t just winning. It was building character and teaching players the value of respect.”

Sharon Redd says that, with financial assistance, future generations of student-athletes can benefit from playing for Humboldt and being part of something special.  

“In our experience getting to know the players, we’ve seen what a difference a scholarship can make,” she says. “Students come to Humboldt to get their college degree and then have a chance to do something in life—opportunities they may not have gotten without a scholarship.”

Honor Coach Tom Wood by making a donation to support the men's and women's basketball program. Contributions, which are tax-deductible and can be paid at once (larger gifts can be pledged over three to five years), can be mailed or made online. 

For more information, contact Stacie Lyans at the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation at (707) 826-5200 or stacie.lyans@humboldt.edu.