main content starts here

Tom Utter

Tom Utter

Tom Utter

One of the winningest coaches in South High history, Tom Utter led the girls’ basketball team to 294 wins in 19 seasons. During that span, the Bulldogs won seven Foothills Council titles, ran off 85 straight league wins from 1993 to 2000, and won three Section II championships.

An elementary school physical education teacher, mostly at Moreau, from 1984 to 2013, Utter was one of the busiest coaches in the district. He was varsity girls’ track and field coach from 1984 to 1990, modified football coach from 1986 to 1992, and girls’ junior varsity basketball coach from 1984 to 1987. Before coming to South High, he coached seventh- and eighth-grade boys’ and girls’ basketball at St. Paul’s School in Norwich, N.Y.

His teams were known for their unselfish play and fundamentally sound basketball. During the team’s magical 24-1 season in 1998-99, the Bulldogs had four starters in double figures, won its regular-season games by an average of 26 points.

Sarah Craft Kill, one of the stars of that team and a member of the Bulldog Pride Hall of Fame, said in a 2012 Post-Star story, “As a team, we all enjoyed each other. That’s probably the biggest hurdle for girls’ teams, and with the girls on our team, everybody understood their role and executed it.”

Kristen Purcell Bogdan said, “Coach Utter always had an organized approach to coaching. He planned every single practice right down to the minute. He expected 100% from everyone, every play, every practice. If one person was slacking we all faced the consequences. He made us into a family and we never wanted to let each other down and certainly not him. Coach Utter committed himself to the team and we did the same. We knew no other way. He scouted every single opponent so we were fully prepared to face them.”

Utter, a Ballston Spa native, deflects all credit to his players, saying “I didn’t make a basket or take a charge. I had great players. They made it easy.”

Kristen commented, “He never talked about his accomplishments as a coach. But we all knew of them in the back of our mind and we did whatever it took to keep that winning streak going. Every game mattered to him. Not just the big ones. He expected we play the last place team the same way we would play in a championship game.

“I had the opportunity to play some pickup games this past year with some former players (Jackie and JoAnne DeLisle, Terry Faden, Shannon O’Brien, and Danielle Fitzgerald) and it was like we were in high school again. Maybe we weren’t as fast. Maybe we couldn’t jump as high. But we all played just like we did when we were in that old wooden gym playing for Coach Utter — with 100% effort. He made me realize what the ‘glory days’ truly are. I often look back on those times, even that devastating Regional loss to Malone, and smile. There aren’t too many coaches like Coach Utter nowadays, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to play for him.”

Utter is the proud father of three daughters: Bethany, a nurse in Lewiston, Maine; McKenzie, an executive for WeWork in New York City; and Lindsie, 9, a Queensbury Elementary School student. Not surprisingly, he still keeps in touch with many of his former players, all of whom express gratitude for the positive influence he has had on their lives.