This family’s legacy is basketball

Goodmans have been involved in the sport for decades

On many a winter night, Connie and Helen Goodman would climb into their Chevrolet Caprice and start driving west out of Fort Dodge on U.S. 20 to begin their search for a radio signal.

Their objective: to tune into their car radio the frequency of the Sioux City station broadcasting the North High School basketball games of their grandson Tommy John Goodman – who played for his father Tom, their son, in the early 1980s.

“They’d sometimes drive as far as Sac City before getting a good signal,” said Tom. “They’d listen to the game and then drive back to their home in Fort Dodge.”

After all, it was about family — and basketball.

The Goodman family is “The First Family” of Iowa basketball with four in the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame: Connie, who coached 27 years at seven different schools including 12 years at Fort Dodge Senior High; his son Tom, who was a two-time All-State guard at FDSH and played four years at Iowa State University before a coaching career of 31 years at eight different schools, and Tom’s two sons, Tommy John, a 5-foot-9 guard (like his father) who twice was a first-team All-Stater at Sioux City North, and Jay, a 6-foot first-team All-State guard for FDSH when the team, coached by his father, won the 1988 state championship.

On June 24, tragedy struck the family when Tommy John, who lived in Altoona with his wife Heidi and their three sons, died suddenly at home. He had been diagnosed with cancer less than two months earlier and had undergone surgery at the Mayo Clinic 11 days before his death — caused by a pulmonary embolism. He was 52. A year earlier, he had been named to the Des Moines Register’s list of the Top 50 greatest Iowa high school boys’ basketball players of all time.

“People say they’re sorry all the time, but nothing can really be said,” his father said. “When you lose a child, it’s devastating. Life is really short. You’ve got to take advantage of every day, whether it’s in the classroom or on a basketball court or wherever. You’ve got to stay positive in your life and make things happen.”

“Nobody is immune,” said Tom’s wife, Connie Davies Goodman, who was preparing that fateful morning to go to Tommy and Heidi’s house to watch their boys. “He had told me, ‘Tell the boys to text me when they need a ride to a workout.’ He was always taking care of his kids.”

At a celebration of life for Tommy, more than 600 people attended from 19 states. Among them were former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long and retired William Jewell College coach Larry Holley, who brought five players from Tommy’s 1987-88 team that went a school-record 32-2.

Flowers were sent by Carroll native Nick Nurse, who in his first year as head coach led the Toronto Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship in June. He recalled competing in high school against Tommy and North in a summer league tournament leading up to the 1984-85 season when Nurse led his Carroll Kuemper team to the 1985 3A state championship.

“I remember him being a scoring machine,” Nurse said, “fast and quick, sometimes getting up to the rim to take his shots. We had never seen North play — now we knew who everybody was talking about.” The two stayed in touch and until recent years enjoyed golfing together twice a year at The Harvester Golf Club northeast of Des Moines. “He was a good dude, we always had a lot of laughs when we were on the course.” Nurse was shocked when he learned of Tommy’s death and his thoughts immediately went to his family — “That’s the first thing you think about when things like this happen, the family and the kids.”

Fort Dodge and sports coursed through Tommy’s veins — from the families of both of his parents.

Connie’s father Glen Davies, who directed the Fort Dodge YMCA and gave Tommy his first Y membership card, was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1989. He was regarded as one of the premier volleyball officials in the world, working the first four Olympics for the sport.

“My dad really treasured his friendships as Tommy did. They both made friends easily,” Connie Goodman said. “Tommy got his optimism from both grandmothers. Sports was everything to both our families. It taught a lot of life’s lessons. Sports and family were the most important things in Tommy’s life.

“Fort Dodge meant the world to Tommy because it meant so much to his dad. He always kind of considered himself a Dodger — he would have loved to play for Fort Dodge. We were always showing his boys things around town — Dodger Stadium, the apple orchard, the Fort Museum — things that make Fort Dodge unique. He never really lived there but he felt like he was a member of it. When he made sales calls, he would be asked, ‘Are you the Fort Dodge Goodman?’ He would say, ‘Yes I am.'”

North traveled to Fort Dodge to play the Dodgers during Tommy’s senior season, a chance for him to play in the same gymnasium where his dad once starred. Despite his 11 three-point goals and 37 points, the Dodgers won, 82-73.

Connie and Tom started dating in their junior year at FDSH and were married in 1966, Tom’s sophomore year at Iowa State. Thomas (Tommy) John Goodman was born in Ames on April 26, 1967, and his brother Jay was born 2 ¢ years later, in Tom’s senior year with the Cyclones.

Five months after Jay was born, Tom graduated and the young family of four was off on his coaching journey that began with three seasons at HLV of Victor, where his team was state runner-up in 1973, and one year at Emmetsburg before he landed the coaching job at Sioux City North.

“We competed every day growing up,” said Jay, who is an Iowa City Realtor and manages rental properties. “It could be whiffle ball, basketball, any sport — I learned how to compete from watching him play. He was a real competitor and the bigger the game, the better he played. He was my idol in basketball growing up. We became really best friends as adults, we talked all the time. We had three boys each, he was a great dad. I still find myself trying to text him even now.”

Tommy’s father was his coach at Sioux City North for his three varsity seasons. North went to the state tournament during Tommy’s sophomore season, and his 27-point-per-game scoring average his senior year was the best in Iowa that season. That scoring average remains the best in Sioux City history and his career total of 1,140 points was second highest in Sioux City history.

Tommy earned a scholarship to William Jewell College in suburban Kansas City and the NAIA team was 84-12 during his three seasons. He tore an ACL his sophomore year and later that season was injured in an automobile accident and played one more season before deciding not to go out for his senior year.

Tom Goodman coached Jay for his junior year at Sioux City East and his senior year at FDSH when the Dodgers, led by Wade Lookingbill and Jay, both All-Staters (with Lookingbill eventually moving on to play at Iowa) won the state title. Jay played at Utah State University, averaging 15 points a game over three seasons, and signed an NBA contract with the Golden State Warriors in 1993. He started an exhibition game against the Denver Nuggets at Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines, where he had last played in his state championship season, and was the last player cut from the 11-player team after that game.

After graduating from Jewell, Tommy began a career in sales that eventually took him to Denver where he met his wife Heidi Smith, who was from Altoona. Heidi played basketball at Southeast Polk and in her junior and senior years, her teams finished as state runner-up. Tom had coached her brother Tyler Smith at Southeast Polk.

“Tommy was so kind to others, especially kids,” Heidi said. “He was always looking out for the kid who couldn’t afford the tryout fee or needed a piece of equipment and he would see that he got it for them. Ironically, he always looked out for the ones without fathers. We have to carry on. Tommy would be disappointed if we didn’t.”

Tate, their oldest son at 16, will be a junior on the varsity basketball team at Southeast Polk; Quinn, 15, wrestles on the junior varsity team, and Bode, 12, plays baseball and basketball. All three of Jay’s sons are playing basketball: Joe, 17, is a point guard for Iowa City West and also competes in track; Ryan, 15, a freshman, is on the football, basketball and track teams, and Eric, 10, is playing fourth-grade basketball and football.

Connie’s grandmotherly advice to her sons and their families: “Remember they are only kids and it is a TEAM sport. They will make mistakes but enjoy it regardless.”

Tommy was “the kid who never grew up,” Tom said, and Connie added, “Tommy treasured his friendships and family. He never had really down times. One thing Heidi’s brother said, he had never met anybody who had an unlimited fun budget and a wife that let him spend it.”

Tommy and Heidi built a basketball court for their boys in their backyard — just as Tom’s dad did for him at their home on Eighth Avenue North in Fort Dodge, all those many years ago.

After all, it was about family — and basketball.

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