HomeBlocksFront-Grid‘A Great Coach, A Better Man’: Hofman Earns 800 Wins

‘A Great Coach, A Better Man’: Hofman Earns 800 Wins

First published in the Feb. 9 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Even La Cañada High School varsity boys’ basketball head coach Tom Hofman admitted when he first took over the program in the 1986-87 season that 800 career wins weren’t a thought that crossed his mind.
But 37 years later, including 31 Rio Hondo League titles and two CIF-Southern Section championships, Hofman reached the 800 career-win milestone.
The latest achievement, which guided the Spartans to their 10th consecutive league title, was a 72-41 victory over Temple City at the Hotchkin Family Gymnasium, also known as the LCHS “Sports Palace.”
“These kids are phenomenal and I’ve been so fortunate to be here and get great support from the administration,” Hofman said.
The longtime varsity basketball coach owns an outstanding 800-255 overall career record entering the CIF playoffs.
“If I didn’t have fun, I wouldn’t be standing here. It’s a lot of fun and like I said, the support we get here, the kids, and I can’t emphasize my wife [Cindy] enough because she does more than I do right now. As long as I get that type of support, I’m gonna keep doing it. I think it keeps me young,” he said.
Hofman’s 800 wins are the seventh-most among active boys’ basketball coaches in California, putting him in exclusive company with the likes of Gary McKnight of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Mike LeDuc of La Verne Damien and Don Lippi of Alameda St. Joseph.
He is also just three wins shy of tying legendary coach Willie West of Crenshaw High in Los Angeles and becoming the 11th winningest coach in state history (including both active and retired coaches).

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Keith Eich (left) presents a plaque to La Cañada High School head coach Tom Hofman during a ceremony celebrating career victory No. 800.

“I’m proud of the way we got to the 800 number. We did it with our kids, smart kids who are working hard,” Hofman said. “I thought 100 was a big number. The numbers don’t mean a lot until you get close to them. …like I’m not thinking about 900 right now. It’s just one game at a time as long as I’m having fun.”
Hofman wasn’t always the coaching legend that he eventually become. He initially found his way to La Cañada High School as a special education teacher in 1984, but the school decided to hire Bob Dueker as its varsity coach that same year. Hofman instead landed the teaching position as well as head coach of the junior varsity team. Fast forward two years to the 1986-87 season, Hofman got his first shot at the varsity job and guided the Spartans to a second-place finish in league with a 6-4 record. LCHS won 11 league titles in Hofman’s first 12 seasons at the helm through 1997-98, including a CIF-SS championship in 1991-92. (He also won a CIF-SS title in the 2010-11 season.)
James Harvey, who served as an assistant coach for 30-plus years under Hofman, was on the interview committee to hire the future LCHS varsity basketball coach in 1984. He said it was a blessing to hire Hofman and was thankful for the career path he chose.
“This was the ’80s when teaching jobs were tight. The only reason Tom Hofman was able to come to La Cañada, and thank God it happened, was because he was a special education teacher,” Harvey said. “The story goes that he knew there was an opening, so he called and said, ‘I’m very interested in the special ed job.’ The principal at the time, Don Hagen, says, ‘We still need a JV coach, would you be willing to take that?’ He took it and the rest is history.”
While many community members may recognize Hofman as the head coach at LCHS, he wasn’t always a part of the Spartan family. He was a standout player at Pasadena High School under coach George Terzian and helped the Bulldogs win the championship of the Foothill League (as it was formerly known). As a high school senior in the 1969-70 season, he was honored as one of the Star-News’ top 10 players in the West San Gabriel Valley and was offered scholarships to five schools, including the University of Arizona. He opted instead to play at Pasadena City College before transferring to Chico State, where a wrist injury essentially ended his college career.
Hofman eventually returned to his high school alma mater — Pasadena High — where he landed one of his first coaching jobs for its freshman team. He moved on to Edison Junior High in South Los Angeles before finding his way to LCHS.
“He found a home, he found a family and so he stayed. I think he always wanted to be a coach,” Harvey said. “He was at Los Angeles Junior High School and coached their seventh- or eighth-grade team and they won a championship. The principal was just so happy because that was the first time they had ever done it. Tom told me he was trying to get up to a high school but they weren’t moving and liked him at the junior high. Then the opening occurred at La Cañada and it just happened.”
Basketball has been part of Hofman’s identity since his days as a high school standout. Coincidentally, that is around the same time he met the other love of his life, his wife Cindy. Tom had enough to worry about on the hardwood so his wife helped where she could off the court.

Cindy Hofman (left) embraces her husband following his milestone victory last week.

“All of a sudden, Tom was the JV coach and he was asking me to make the sign boards to have the name and the number on the gym wall. In those days, you didn’t go to the printer and just have it made like we do today,” Cindy Hofman said. “I just started helping do what needed to be done. We organized the team events, the snack bar, the team meetings and things that are kind of tedious.”
With all the help and support behind the scenes, the coach was free to focus his energy on developing kids on the basketball court. And so a youth basketball summer camp was born.
“We have this little summer program that Charlie [Plowman] and Tom started years ago and it kind of piqued the interest of a lot of youngsters who started to come every summer,” Cindy Hofman added. “Tom teaches the same fundamentals to the kids at the camp as he uses with the varsity kids. We have so many kids on our varsity in the last few years that came up through these camps and they were just eager to play at a higher level.”
Sparking interest in basketball for youth players is important, but being a great coach and a better person helps players and parents trust the process. Harvey said that Tom Hofman is a great role model and has a way of making kids believe in their own abilities on the court — a combination that can create a championship-caliber squad.
“The role model that he’s been for these kids is off the charts. His values, ethics and morals are unmatched,” Harvey said. “He also gets the kids believing in themselves and believing in the team and to motivate them to play hard and be successful.”
The Spartans lost to Blair High of Pasadena in this year’s league opener on Jan. 6 and they have yet to lose since as of the Outlook Valley Sun’s press deadline.
“He has all these interesting plays and he’s always, always at home studying games. We either have golf or basketball on our TV all the time,” Cindy Hofman said. “They aren’t the most talented or athletic group against the teams we’ve played, but they sure know how to work as a group and they listen to Tom.”
Even Tom Hofman felt the nerves leading up to the milestone evening despite finding himself in countless pressure-ridden situations on the court over his career.
“We were so nervous all week and we were nervous driving to the game. Luckily, things lined up and the kids put in a great effort,” Cindy Hofman said with a chuckle. “Tom said his biggest fear was that [La Cañada High School] probably planned on this. What if we didn’t win and we had this big stuff ready? I said, ‘We can’t really control that, good thing you won.’”
Tom Hofman hinted that this won’t be his last stint as head coach and plans to return to help develop the players that have been in the program since their freshman years. After that, anything can happen, but Cindy Hofman doesn’t know what her husband would do with all the extra free time.
Tom Hofman has three priorities in his life: family, basketball and golf — in that order.
“He goes to the golf course every day, he walks the course and stretches at the gym, and then he goes to the high school in the afternoon and does his coaching,” Cindy Hofman said. “Right now, he seems to be very content with what he’s doing.”
Whether it was the students he was teaching in the classroom or on the court, Tom Hofman’s legacy is cemented in the pillars of the La Cañada Flintridge community.
“What he has done for the kids and the families in the community is off the charts,” Harvey said. “It was so nice for the mayor, the principal, the superintendent and all the people there to recognize what he’s done.”
LCHS (9-1 in league, 21-7 overall) took an 11-game winning streak into its CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoff opener against visiting Northwood High of Irvine as Tom Hofman began the journey to win No. 900. (The game ended after the Outlook Valley Sun’s press deadline and will be included in next week’s issue). If victorious, the Spartans would advance to the second round on Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m.

—Oscar Areliz contributed to this story.


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