By Martin Cleary
If you were to use one word to associate with Ottawa’s Geoff House, it would be: Basketball.
Ever since he was born 57 years ago, the sport of basketball has been a part of his life, whether he heard his father George talk about the sport, watched the game as a spectator, ran the court as a guard for his various teams or served as an international trainer/coach, which is his current role.
George was synonymous with basketball. He sparked Carleton University to the Ottawa-St. Lawrence Conference men’s championship in 1957 and 1959 and was the league’s scoring champion and Carleton athlete of the year in 1958-59. An Ottawa lawyer, he also was on the Canada Basketball executive board and assisted the Canadian men’s team in the 1970s and 1980s, when Jack Donohue was the head coach.
Tony House, who is Geoff’s brother, was a standout at St. Pius X High School, a two-time Great Plains Athletic Conference champion (1985 and 1986) with the University of Manitoba, and a bronze medallist at the 1985 CIAU national championship. He shared his love of basketball by creating the Rautins-House Basketball Summer Camps more than 30 years ago and the Canada Topflight Academy for elite high-school players at Notre Dame High School.
Geoff was swept into that whirlwind of basketball, winning individual and team awards at St. Pius X before being a student-athlete at Simon Fraser University and the University of Manitoba, where he made the GPAC all-rookie team in 1986 and won a conference title in 1987. He moved into coaching at Glebe Collegiate Institute and Nepean High School as well as the Ottawa club ranks with the Nepean Blue Devils before becoming an international training and youth development basketball coach.
The House name will move into the forefront this weekend as Carleton University will present its annual House-Laughton Hoops Classic tournament. The four-team, round-robin affair runs Friday through Sunday.
The Carleton Ravens will play the University of Guelph Gryphons on Friday at 8 p.m., the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday at 8 p.m. and the Université du Québec à Montréal Citadins at 2 p.m.
The tournament schedule is completed by Saskatchewan playing UQAM on Friday at 6 p.m., UQAM meeting Guelph on Saturday at 6 p.m. and Saskatchewan playing Guelph on Sunday at noon.
Geoff House, who recently returned from instructing at a basketball camp in Costa Rica, will attend the 32nd House-Laughton Hoops Classic and could be part of the closing awards ceremony.
“We try to get out as much as we can. Tony isn’t around as his team (Canada Topflight Academy) is at a tournament in (Orlando) Florida, but I’ll show up,” House said.
Spending some time at home in Ottawa is a good break for House, who has become a sought-after coach in several countries to conduct basketball clinics.
Two years ago, he posted his basketball resume on social media to see if there were any clubs around the world looking for coaching leadership. Within a short period, he was making positive connections with his basketball network.
This year alone he has travelled to Australia in April, Brazil in July and Costa Rica in September-October to work with young players. In the future, he hopes to get to St. Lucia, The Netherlands and Italy to share his enthusiasm and knowledge in the world-wide sport.
During the 2024-2025 season, he will spend a full year working at the NBA Basketball School in Dubai, which has a tuition-based development program for youth ages six to 18. There are NBA schools in 18 different countries.
“It’s a great basketball and life experience,” House said in a phone interview this week about his young international coaching career. “They appreciate me coming from a different country to share my knowledge in a totally different basketball world.”
In his most recent assignment, he worked with young children at a variety of sites in Costa Rica. He even had one of his sessions monitored by university students as part of one of their courses.
“The professor who organized it does a lot of mental (preparation) stuff for athletes. He had his students come to the gym to watch my clinic and ask questions after,” added House, who plans to move to Costa Rica in January, after retiring from his environmental service job of 15 years at CHEO.
House is excited to take his basketball instruction skills around the world.
“It’s their passion,” he explained. “In Canada, it’s a different attitude. In Australia, Costa Rica and Brazil, it’s their passion. I like working with young athletes. They’re appreciative and (show) respect. We bring our cultures together.
“I bring my methodology to them and they appreciate me as I appreciate them. We learn from each other.”
While soccer is the premier sport in Costa Rica and water sports are popular activities, basketball doesn’t have a high profile in the country of 5.15-million people or have enough coaches to lead the way.
When House was in Costa Rica for a month, he could have coached at all levels from beginner to intermediate to club to university.
“I love the adventure, the passion. They get more out of it,” House said.
During his summertime trip to Brazil, House said he was the first Canadian to work with national-level coaches and former national team players from the South American country. He also has developed a strong working relationship with Rafael Araujo, who was the first-round pick and eighth overall of the Toronto Raptors in the 2004 NBA Draft.
Last April, he worked at the Cee Tomlinson Basketball Academy in Melbourne, Australia, which is run by Clarissa Tomlinson, a former NCAA division 1 player and a three-year professional at home. The Tomlinson name is well respected in Australia as both her father and mother played on the Aussie national teams.
Tomlinson runs weekly and holiday basketball programs, but also is involved in personal training, and health and wellness programs.
“The whole family is basketball royalty,” House enthused.
Ray Tomlinson (Clarissa’s father) was a three-time Olympian as a player for Australia and participated in another two Summer Games as a coach. He also coached Australia to its first world women’s junior basketball championship in 1993 and won 145 games in the WNBA.
Sandra Tomlinson (Clarissa’s mother) played for the Australian women’s national team in the 1970s and attended two world championships. She also played one year in the Women’s National Basketball League before retiring in 1982.
House is anxious to go to St. Lucia to bring basketball to the small island country in the Caribbean.
“I must find the time for the under-privileged kids,” he said. “I hear so much about it. I was just about to go (in 2022), when I took a COVID test before going to the airport and I was positive.”
House cancelled that trip, but it’s high on his wish list for future basketball coaching assignments.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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