By Mark Vogler, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff Reporter, January 29, 1971
Chances are that he won’t receive the red carpet treatment that adorned him at Tennessee. But one thing's for sure. If transfer student Tom McLaughlin stacks up to what the UMass athletic department estimates, he’ll certainly incite a warm welcome from the frantic fans who fill Curry Hicks Cage. And that, my friends, is equal to any southern basketball reception.
McLaughlin, a sophomore who stands at 6'4, becomes eligible to play for the Redmen this semester. A year ago he paced the Tennessee freshmen club in scoring, averaging better than 17 points per outing. In recognition for his all around ability as the team's top performer, he was feted with the Blue Chip award.
However, due to transportation costs and contributing circumstances, the Bronx native was prompted to reconsider his educational plans. In so doing he preferred a school much closer to home. Among the eastern colleges that he placed an immediate interest in was UMass.
Coach Jack Leaman reported that McLaughlin was recommended to him by Holy Cross mentor Jack Donohue who was being assisted by Tom's brother Frank at the time. It has been the Crusaders policy not to accept transfer students. McLaughlin visited UMass, took a liking to its campus, and decided to transfer. Now he's content to stay where he is and seek a well-rounded college education.
The newcomer noted how his former college just about bent over backwards in convincing him that it was the right place to go. The prepaid airplane trip to Tennessee and, of course, the weekend stay on campus, compliments of the college, was nice in itself. Being swarmed at the ramp by photographers with Chicago Bulls star Tom Boerwinkle as an escort further spiced the occasion. But things were a bit overdone when he was granted complete weekend rights to a 1968 Toranodo, supplemented by an attractive prearranged date - not to mention the billboard posting “Welcome Tom” greetings and then the television interview that followed.
Tom best recalls: “Its like nothing that happens in the east. It just goes to show how much emphasis they put on sports. I was really awed by all of this, but as far as I'm concerned they take it much too seriously.
Before, I thought that basketball was the only thing I was going to do in life. But now, I've laid it up and have begun to realize that there are other things of greater importance which should be stressed.“
Leaman says that McLaughlin’s size will enable him to play both the front and the backcourt.
“He's a very fine basketball player,” asserted the coach. “We figure and hope that he’ll make a major contribution to our squad second semester. He can defend, rebound, and shoot with considerable proficiency so he will definitely add something to the defense of our New England championship.
“I think the type of young man he is both on and off the court, he'll be a definite asset to our program. And anybody who works as hard as Tommy does has to be successful in whatever he pursues.”
Asked a month ago whether he foresaw a possible starting berth for McLaughlin in the Redman line-up, Leaman replied: “I'd say it would depend entirely upon how the team is playing. Right now it would be mighty tough to break into the starting team. But who's to say how things will be like a month or so from now. I think he has the talent to presently help us out as either a starter or substitute. But it's tough to answer. We'll just have to wait and see how things are going in January.”
McLaughlin finds the atmosphere at UMass more appealing than he had experienced as a student-athlete elsewhere: “The main thing I really like at UMass is that I don't have all that pressure on me that was at Tennessee and high school – scoring points, grabbing rebounds, being the all-American boy. It's given me time to think where I'm going and what I'm going to do in life.”
One thing that continually bothers Tom is the negative attitude of the fans towards the official. Referring to the AIC game, which the Redmen won handily, McLaughlin looked back on a common incident. “We were heading toward the locker room at half time and the officials were walking behind me. This one kid chased after them, screaming in retaliation for Julius Erving's four fouls. I stopped and told the kid to leave the refs alone, that these guys are just doing their jobs and are liable to make mistakes.”
“I feel this one instance just goes to show that officials and athletes are human. They're not machines and they're going to make mistakes. You just have to accept them for what they are.”
The youngest in a family of male athletes, Tom, just as his three brothers before him, as a schoolboy standout in basketball at Fordham Prep. Likewise, he attended college on an athletic scholarship.
A tragic automobile accident took the life of Jackie McLaughlin who as a freshman for St. Louis University, had a bright hoop future on the horizon at the age of 18 (1955). During the same season head coach Ed Hickey had maneuvered St. Louis into the national top ten rankings.
Franky, a 23-year old Fordham alumnus (1968), had pro possibilities and was drafted by the New York Knicks of the NBA. But after the 6'3 captain had guided his mates through a 17-9 campaign and into the NIT, he decided to hang up the sneakers and get involved in the coaching circle. He is presently an assistant coach at Fordham.
McLaughlin becomes eligible today and will be available for action as the Redmen take on Northeastern at the Cage tomorrow night.