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Former Globetrotter and Bellevue sports steward talks hoops | Reporter Q and A
For more than 25 years, Rudy Thomas was an indispensable asset to the city of Bellevue. Thomas spent more than two decades as the programming coordinator at the Crossroads Community Center and impacted thousands of young lives. A former member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Thomas was also part of the 1972 men's basketball team at Western Washington University that won its first 21 games and finished the year 26-4 with an Evergreen Conference title and trip to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament. Recently retired from his full time position with the city of Bellevue and recovering from a foot surgery, Thomas took some time with the Reporter to talk about the Globetrotters, working with youth and why he first delved into basketball.
BELLEVUE REPORTER: I know baseball was really your first love. What got you into that sport as a kid?
RUDY THOMAS: The Atlanta Braves, Warrren Spahn and Lou Burdette. I just fell in love with baseball and they were the first team I watched. Hank Aaron was the first player I really watched play and that kind of gave me something. Where I grew up, that was really all that was around there was baseball and football. I had some fun with it.
REPORTER: Why did you end up making the transition to basketball?
THOMAS: The girls, to be honest and truthful. All the girls were going to the basketball games. I fell in love with it. I had played pickup ball and they talked me in to trying out for he high school team. One thing led to another and I just dropped baseball. No one was really going to the games back in those days, especially the women. That's what made me get into the gym.
REPORTER: What do you remember most from your time in Bellingham at Western?
THOMAS: I remember what a helluva education I got. We went to different cities, I got to be around a bunch of different guys. I got a chance to see the world that way, too.
REPORTER: Talk about your time with the Globetrotters and what you recall from those days.
THOMAS: A bunch of crazy guys…I'm serious. Hanging out with those guys, most of them had been there. To be able to sit back and listen to them was kind of like an education. These guys had a chance to travel and see the world before I even thought about those things and that experience kind of wore off on me. You have to be able to be patient dealing with the public because everyone wants a piece of you. That took me awhile to get used to. I learned from that.
REPORTER: How did you end up with the city of Bellevue?
THOMAS: I was working at Yesler Terrace for the Seattle Parks Department. They were having some problems at Crossroads Community Center with gangs and stuff and I was in the middle of it where I was. I had seen drive-by shootings. I just got lucky and I stuck with it.
REPORTER: Talk about your approach working with kids and the lessons you have learned over the years.
THOMAS: Most kids look at me, because I'm tall, they look up to me and I try to make sure they don't call me Mister, it's just Rudy. I try to get down to their eye-level so they aren't always looking up and just relate to them, and also having that patience.
REPORTER: What are your plans for retirement?
THOMAS: Zero, my wife will keep me busy I'm sure...Once I get healed up from this foot surgery, I will be doing some volunteering. I couldn't just walk away, I have too many kids.
Thomas works with a pair of youngsters on dribbling skills. COURTESY PHOTO, CITY OF BELLEVUE
Rudy Thomas (left) talks with Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee and former Seattle Sonics and University of Washington star Detlef Schrempf. COURTESY PHOTO, CITY OF BELLEVUE
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