It’s easy to look at the 345 wins that Jasper-Troupsburg’s Tom Price amassed throughout his head varsity boys basketball coaching career and infer that that’s what defined him.
In 25 seasons, Price, who passed away Sunday at age 53, had 19 winning seasons and led the Wildcats to six sectional finals appearances and a state finals appearance in 1998, in just his third season.
Price’s impact went far deeper than basketball however, as an active member in the community, as well as forging bonds with people and students he came across.
“I have known Tom my lifetime,” Jasper-Troupsburg athletic director Jean Green said. “We raised our kids together. We worked with the same kids in the school. Tom had a magnetic personality and cares deeply about our kids and our communities. He has had a far reaching effect on 25 years of basketball and baseball teams as well as small fry/youth programs.”
As much coaching as Tom did throughout his career, he was always the first one to lend a hand to a rookie coach learning the ranks.
“He was always willing to help a newer coach navigate the waters of the teenage team mindset,” said Green.
An example of Price’s mentorship is Bradford head boys basketball coach Mark LaBarr. The Braves and Wildcats faced off often being in Class D, including two fierce battles this past season in which the combined score of the two games were within three points.
The last five matchups between Bradford and Jasper-Troupsburg featured six overtimes.
"He really made you want to be your best when you coached against him,“ Bradford head varsity boys basketball coach Mark LaBarr said. ”He was so good at finding ways to exploit weaknesses and get wins over, at times, more athletic teams by his coaching ability and getting his players to buy in. Those kids played hard for Tom. Really shows what kind of coach he was.“
LaBarr met Price as a rookie head coach in 2015 and was starstruck his first time playing the Wildcats.
“When we first played them I felt like I was way in over my head to even be coaching against him,” said LaBarr. “It wasn’t that he was being intimidating, it was just his name that was. When the players were warming up he came over to my bench and spent about 10 minutes just talking about life. About his family, asking me about mine.
“I couldn’t believe this coach who I knew was a future Hall of Famer was standing there talking to me and asking questions about me,” LaBarr continued.
It was after that game that Price became a mentor to LaBarr, often texting him after games and giving him words of encouragement after seeing Bradford pick up big victories.
When LaBarr’s career hit it’s pinnacle thus far with an appearance in the Section V Class D1 title game in 2018, one of the first people to congratulate him on the accomplishment was Price.
“He came up to me and said I knew you would be here,” said LaBarr. “Tom was a coach who I wanted to be like. I sought his approval like a son does a father. He was my coaching hero and a very good friend.”
Price’s excellence on the sideline earned him Section V Coach of the Year in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2019.
In between the lines, Price was able to take one of the smallest schools in Section V and make them a perennial sectional title contender year in and year out. He was able to get the most out of his players.
“His teams adored him,” said Green. “They knew he cared and he pushed them to work hard because he knew they could do it. He never asked more of them than they could deliver and they would rise to the occasion.”