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Former UCF basketball assistant Tim Thomas enjoys family life at Orlando Christian Prep
Orlando Sentinel - 3/5/2021
Tim Thomas, the former UCF assistant coach who is now a high school basketball assistant for Orlando Christian Prep, had an important stop to make after the undefeated Warriors won their Class 2A state semifinal game on Wednesday.
He hustled back to pick up his two youngest daughters at OCP and take them to softball practice.
That chance to balance work and family was all but impossible as a major college basketball coach. It is realistic in Thomas’ role as a dean of students and coach for eight-time state champ OCP – where basketball is serious business but not the only priority.
“I appreciate the opportunity to go to my girls’ games. I can help coach their softball teams,” Thomas said this week. “I’d never have that opportunity as a college coach. My life really wasn’t my life.
“Coaching at the major college level is non-stop. It’s 24-7, 365 days a year. It’s about winning and making money. If it was my daughter’s birthday and a coach or a recruit called me. ... I had to take that call.”
Thomas, who is in his fifth season at OCP, spent time at prep school powers before getting into college coaching with nine years at Division II West Virginia Tech. He was then invited by another West Virginia native, Donnie Jones, to move up to the D-1 ranks, where coaching is much more lucrative. And more time-consuming and pressurized.
Thomas coached and relentlessly recruited under Jones for three successful seasons at Marshall and then for three 20-win years followed by two losing seasons at UCF. He left the college game one year before UCF fired Jones, who is now head at Stetson, and became a coach at the DME sports academy in Daytona Beach for the 2015-16 season. He commuted that year from home in Longwood.
Thomas could have shopped around for another college job but opted to not rush back into the rat race at a time when his oldest daughter, Taylor, was heading into ninth grade.
“I just couldn’t see myself coming into the house and saying, ‘Hey I’m going to take another job. We’re moving,” Thomas recalls. “My family had made so many sacrifices for me. It was time for me to make family the priority.”
Taylor became a standout player for Winter Springs’ 31-0 state championship softball team of 2019. She is now a sophomore starter and the RBI leader for Seminole State College.
Grace joined her dad at OCP. She is a sophomore who played volleyball in the fall and is now playing softball for the Warriors.
Abbie is now an OCP third grader who joined her first softball team three weeks ago.
“I’ve enjoyed the five years at OCP so much because of the time I have with my family,” Thomas said. “I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I’m still involved with high level basketball and I’m working for a really great school.
“The opportunity to mentor kids in positive way is what really appeals to me. It’s not just about basketball. Being a (middle school) dean of students allows me to do the same thing with other students at our school. It’s very rewarding.”
Treig Burke became the Warriors head coach in 2016 after nine seasons as an assistant at OCP and asked Thomas to join his staff.
Thomas knew the program well after recruiting former OCP all-state players Keith Clanton and Adonys Henriquez to UCF.
“He’s instrumental to our success,” Burke said. “You can’t talk about OCP’s success without mentioning Tim Thomas. He’s seen it all, and he’s seen it at a high level. And he’s able to communicate his knowledge of the game so well with our kids. He’s a good friend. And a good man.”
OCP (26-0) will be shooting for its fourth state championship in the five years Burke and Thomas have teamed up on Saturday when it plays Jacksonville Impact Christian (20-6) — the school the Warriors beat for the title a year ago. A win would complete the first undefeated season in the program’s storied history.
“I think we’ve got very, very talented kids. And they’re as coachable as any group I’ve ever been around,” Thomas said. “We’ve got multiple guys who could go out and score 20-plus points per game. They’ve bought into the team aspect of it. They believe in our program, they believe in coach Burke and what we’re doing. Every day it’s a joy to go to practice, it really is.”
Thomas, who turned 50 in January, said he could be open to becoming a high school head coach again — but he’s in no hurry to go anywhere.
“I think like anyone else if had an opportunity to run your own program, you think about that,” Thomas said. “But also, I know how special OCP is. Coach Burke is a great coach to work with. It would have to be a special, special place for me to take a different job.”
This story was first published at OrlandoSentinel.com. Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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