The Blue Eagles’ Secret Weapon: Coach K
The Duke Blue Devils may have their version of Coach K, but since 2002, the Magnolia Blue Eagles have theirs in 1994 graduate Tom “Coach K” Kacor.
That year Tom’s nephew, Ted Talkington, was playing in a summer league game at Wheeling Park when Coach K simply walked over and sat on the bench. He has been coaching ever since. Tom usually attends the home games, according to Magnolia Head Coach Dave Tallman.
“He keeps the boys loose in the locker room before the game by joking around with them,” Tallman said.
During the junior varsity games, Tom can be found sitting with the varsity players in the student section before they head into the locker-room. During the varsity games, Coach K sits on the bench. Yet, as all coaches do, Coach K does get hungry during the games, so occasionally he heads over to the concession stand.
His parents, Ted and Gretchen, say it is thrilling to see Tom do what he loves. They add that Tom feels very important sitting on the bench along with the team. Furthermore, he will take home DVDs of the games and watch them over and over. When asked if he has any pre-game traditions or superstitions, Tom and his parents said he lays out his clothes every game day. He wears the exact same thing each time – what he calls his “coaching outfit.”
One of Coach K’s favorite sayings is, “Hands Up, Move Your Feet,” which is said many times a game by Coach Tallman.
Tom’s parents are graduates of what is now known as Wheeling Central – Ted in 1950 and Gretchen in 1951. Tom was born on Nov. 29, 1972, at the old Wetzel County Hospital. He has Down Syndrome and was born with cataracts in both eyes. Tom’s older siblings are Becky, Karen, Debbie, John, and Gretchen. Tom was close with all his siblings when he was young and still calls them when he can. His sister, Debbie, and brother, John, both live in New Martinsville. Tom calls them often just to see how they are doing. “It’s a good thing he doesn’t know everyone’s phone numbers or they’d all be in trouble,” his mother noted. Karen lives in Morgantown, while Becky and Gretchen live in Texas.
Coach K is the brother-in-law of former WVU football coach, the late Bill Stewart. To show how close he and his brother-in-law were, Bill always made the comment that if something happened to Tom’s parents, Tom would live with him and Karen. Bill also always introduced Tom as his best assistant coach.
Kacor’s favorite WVU basketball players were De’Sean Butler and Talkington. However, his favorite WVU football player was one that Stewart was close to as well – Pat White. At Bill Stewart’s funeral in 2012, Tom was introduced to legendary WVU Basketball Coach Bob Huggins. “You’ll get them next year coach,” Tom told Huggins. It had been a particularly tough year for the Mountaineer roundballers.
Tom’s Work, Loves And Hobbies
Tom loves riding his bicycle and talking to everyone he sees. He also loves seeing the parades after Magnolia teams win state championships. He loves band and basketball, and he is a big fan of The Beach Boys. Tom saw The Beach Boys in concert twice and has met the band once. His favorite professional football team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. His favorite player is Ben Roethlisberger.
When younger, Tom loved playing with miniature cars. He had hundreds of them.
Despite this fun, Tom also remains very busy. In 1993, with the help of current Magnolia High School Principal Kathi Schmaltz, Tom got a job at Pizza Hut. He has been working two or three days a week since then. According to Tom, he has three jobs: Pizza Hut, basketball and band.
When Tom’s parents go to the football games, they never see their son because he is always sitting with the band. And as for basketball, Tom keeps a collection of pieces of the nets from various sectional, regional, and state titles the Big Eagles have won in basketball throughout Tom’s tenure as “Coach K.”
Furthermore, Tom loves being involved in the community. “What a great community it is,” his parents noted. They say living here is better than living in a big city where Tom would be just another person.
The Players, On “Coach K”
All the players agreed that Coach K is a great guy, while some went into more details.
“Coach K is a jokester and he is always smiling,” Preston Boswell noted.
Alex Anderson agreed: “He always keeps us entertained during the games.”
Zach Haught noted that Coach K always brings a smile and a great energy to the team. “We are glad to have him,” Haught added.
Kyle Ritz noted that it doesn’t matter what the game is like, or how he and his teammates play, Coach K will always be happy and “loves us all the same, win or lose. To Coach K, we always win by 28 points.”
“Coach K is one of my favorites because he has no negative bones in his body. Having him around makes us all better,” Mitch Winters stated.
Tyler Anderson concluded, “Tommy always makes you smile even when you’re down, and that’s what makes him a great coach and a great person.”