Editor’s Note: June is always a big month around high schools. There is graduation and the end of the scholastic careers for seniors, plus Father’s Day, which is Sunday.
For decades in June, Tom Williams has turned over his column for Father's Day tributes from the Ocean City sports community. People like Stephanie Gaitley, Matt Woolley, Jeff Boyd, Allison Rinck, Erik Geisinger, Doug Colman, Allie Moreland, Tracey LeFever, the Degenhardt sisters, Chelsea Bruno, Danielle McNally, Dave & Casey Beyel, the Donahue sisters and Shaune McLaughlin, among others, to write about their fathers.
He later added tributes to others outside of Ocean City by the Campo brothers, Scott Parker and the Coffey brothers.
This year, former Lower Cape May star athlete and coach, Pat Holden, writes about his father, George, the Hall of Fame basketball coach from LCMR.

A Father’s Day tribute to George Holden

By Pat Holden
Guest Sports Columnist

Mike McGarry wrote an article in the Press of Atlantic City a few years ago that was entitled “Basketball bonds Holden Family together”. There was a picture of my daughter Lauren, my father and myself sitting on the bleachers together and the article talked about our “family tradition” here at Lower Cape May Regional and three generations of players.

At the time, Lauren just broke my single game scoring record at the school and the article talked about our careers (my father and me) as players and coaches, Lauren’s accomplishments at the time and also mentioned my brother, Scott, who is the head boy’s coach today at LCMR. At the end of the article it states “but with all the baskets and records, which makes this special for Lauren is her family”. I never discussed this with my father but I am sure the article put a smile on his face because the most important thing was not the coaching/athletic achievements of three generations, but the emphasis from his granddaughter on just a few of the many key values that he has taught along the way to all of his children – the value of being humble and recognizing the importance of family.

Sure, basketball has influenced our family and has shaped who I am today. Some of my most poignant memories growing up are centered around basketball, therefore, it makes sense for many people to make a connection or association with basketball to our family. Someone I teach with shared a very flattering suggestion by Tom Williams in his recent article “Lots of Tributes and Memorials connected to CAL Sports Facilities”. To those familiar with the article you know what I am referencing. However, basketball is only part of the story.

I come from a very unique and cohesive family. There are five children. The three oldest were adopted after a week old and the two youngest are natural. Our family, in order, goes Amy, Pat (myself), Mike, Scott and Jenny. My mother did not work (only part time in the summer) and my father started teaching back in the 1960s. Both my parents gave three individuals an opportunity in life and they sacrificed to do so. The value of family was instilled very early and also a philosophy of what really matters in life.

My father worked incessantly throughout his life. Today I still do not know how he managed to work the way he did. His schedule for 30 plus years was get up every day at 4 a.m., deliver newspapers, teach math and then coach basketball. I can remember in high school getting home from games as late as 11:30–midnight. My father led by example to all of us. The value of commitment, hard work, self-discipline, integrity, responsibility. You see it as an adolescent but really understand and appreciate it as an adult. I have tried to emulate his effort and energy each day in the classroom, on the court and with his family.

The single thing I have come to admire the most now at my age, as I reflect back on everything, are the sacrifices and burdens that both my parents shared – not to drive a better car, go out to dinner or take a fancy vacation – to make things “work” for the family.

As adults all of the children from time to time talk about growing up and how much we all appreciate the way we were raised and the impact it has had on all of us, especially as parents. There are great stories (humorous) that come up all the time. However, I personally realized just how fortunate we were when I would talk to many former players my father coached. Some of these guys are in their sixties now and throughout the years many have made it a point to see me and let me know just how much they admired and appreciated those qualities in my father. In addition, how much he impacted their lives as well.

Recently, a group of five men from Brooklawn came down to have lunch with both my father and me at the Lobster House. Afterwards we went back to my house and continued the conversation. My father coached this group back in the 1960s. They were in junior high at the time and were a very good team. One was very sick and unfortunately has since passed away. That is why they came down and got together to see my father. This group was very diversified in terms of personalities, education and level of success; however, the impact and impression my father made on all of them was the same. Each one made it a point to see me individually at some point during the day to let me know how they felt about my father. It was clearly very important to all of them that I knew.

Today, I relish the time I spend with my entire family. I often have my parents over for dinner and I enjoy that time immensely. I feel fortunate and blessed to have been guided by my father throughout my life and have come to appreciate how much he has impacted others as well. He taught me a lot on the court but much more in life. I hope one day my own children come to appreciate things the way I have and express the same sentiment.

The game of basketball has been very good to our family and Mike McGarry was right – “Basketball bonds Holden family together.” But it has been the values that my father has inculcated throughout his life in his children that has been the true strength of our family.

Thanks, Dad, for everything. Happy Father’s Day.

Read more of Tom Williams' columns