One of the criteria often used by those selecting inductees to our four professional sports halls of fame can be posed as a question: Can the history of this sport be written without mentioning this candidate’s name? In the case of Paul “Doc” Thomas and his role in the history of basketball in Windsor-Essex and Canada, the answer to that question is a resounding “no!”
Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Thomas was an outstanding basketball player in his own right. A four-time All-Canadian at the University of Western Ontario, he famously earned a tryout with the New York Knickerbockers. By the early 1950s, Thomas was combining coaching with playing and was player-coach of the 1952 National Champion Tillsonburg Livingstons. This victory earned the Livingstons a trip to the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki as Canada’s basketball entrant. Upon returning to Canada, Thomas turned his full attention to teaching and coaching.
Thomas eventually earned his doctorate (Ph.D.) in Physical Education from the University of Southern California and served as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Saskatchewan through the 1960s. The University of Windsor, already a national powerhouse in men’s hoops, came calling in 1969. Thomas began a long and successful tenure with the Lancers, winning three OUAA Championships, making six CIAU National Championships, and earning two CIAU Coach of the Year honours.
Beyond those noted achievements, Thomas carved an enormous impact on the basketball landscape of Canada. His coaching abilities were recognized far and wide, and he gained an international reputation as one of the best teachers of the game. Thomas has written extensively about basketball, was a guiding hand in the development of Canada’s Basketball Coaching Certification Program, and is an honoured member of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Paul “Doc” Thomas remains one of the historical pillars of basketball in the Windsor region and across Canada. He now takes his rightful place in the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in the Builders category.