Worthing Raised The Bar
For Blue Dragon Women's Basketball
At the time of Tom Worthing’s induction into the Hutchinson Community College Quarterback Club Hall of Fame, the Blue Dragon women’s basketball program is among the elite programs in the NJCAA.
Teams prior to Worthing’s arrival at HCC in 1981 had conference and regional success. And, it goes without saying that Hutch’s current run of success that started in 2009 in unprecedented in the team’s history.
But it was during Worthing’s 12-year run where the foundation was put down for women’s basketball success at Hutchinson Community College.
“I had some great teams and some talented, athletic girls from Kansas high schools,” Worthing said. “They set a lot of records and gave me so many memories.”
Worthing’s teams produced five 20-win seasons and nine finishes inside the top three of the Jayhawk West and three trips to the Region VI Tournament semifinals.
Just one of six head coaches in program history, Worthing completed his tenure on the Blue Dragon bench with a record of 225-116. Worthing was HCC women’s basketball’s career coaching wins leader until John Ontjes surpassed him this season. His 341 games coached at Hutchinson remain the most in HCC women’s basketball history.
Worthing replaced Larry Brin before the 1981-82 season, taking over the program just 10 days before the Blue Dragons’ season-opening three-day classic in Harrison, Ark. HCC dropped all three games of that classic, but Worthing earned coaching victory No. 1 with a 84-52 victory over Sterling College.
“I didn’t even know all the kids’ names during that trip,” said Worthing, who came to HCC to teach math after a successful stint as the boys head basketball team at Inman High School. “One of my goals was to improve the level of play of the HCC women.”
Worthing’s first two Hutchinson teams posted records of 14-11 and 17-12, both teams finishing third in the ultra-tough Jayhawk West. From that point, the bar started to be raised for HCC women’s basketball.
Starting with a group of player sled by Sherri Dishman, Staci Hadley and Jamie Weaver, Worthing’s teams were becoming a main player in the Jayhawk Conference. The 1983-84 Dragons went 19-7 and the 1984-85 squad produced Hutchinson’s first 20 win season since 1980. Both of those teams finished as league runner-up.
While many coaches disliked the Sports Arena’s small gym, Worthing wasn’t one of them. In fact, Worthing called the small gym “our gym.”
“They heard all of my instructions twice because of the echo quality in that gym.”
The reverberation of the small gym reinforcing Worthing’s message must have sunk in because the wins kept coming.
The 1987 and 1988 teams produced 20-win seasons. After a small step back in 1989 – that team produced only 17 wins – Worthing put together a group of players who had a dream season. Many of the players from that team remain etched in the Blue Dragon record books.
Led by Janay Vulgamore – who was HCC’s career scoring leader until Heather Robben surpassed her in 2010 – the 1989-90 Blue Dragon women’s basketball team set a team record for wins with a 27-5 record. That team had five all-conference players, not to mention was second in the nation in field-goal percentage and scoring defense.
In fact, 31of Worthing’s players earned postseason honors. Three of his players – Vulgamore, Kim Gwinner and Penny Fisher remain part of the HCC women’s basketball career Top 10 scoring list. Eight remain in the Top 25.
“My players made an impact on HCC women’s basketball,” Worthing said proudly. “I wish I would have kept a journal of events in my life as HCC women’s basketball coach.
“My family made a lot of sacrifices so I could live this dream. It was a great time in my life.”