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‘Get outside and play’

Wood Park courts named for Cinnaminson basketball legend Tom Lynch

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Family members of Tom Lynch – including children and grandchildren – unveil the new sign on March 17 at Cinnaminson’s Wood Park.

On a sunny St. Patrick’s Day afternoon, more than 200 residents gathered to honor the late basketball legend Tom Lynch, who helped teach the fundamentals of the game to generations of Cinnaminson youngsters.

Members of his family unveiled a new sign on March 17 during the dedication of the Tom Lynch Basketball Courts at Wood Park, followed by a round of applause.

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“He told us to get outside and play,” said his son, TJ Lynch, adding that his dad often encouraged his kids to play basketball at either Wood or Garfield Park. “Cinnaminson is a great place to live and this is a nice honor for my dad.”

The younger Lynch was accompanied by his brother Matthew, his sister Tracy and all their children.

Growing up in the Mayfair section of Northeast Philadelphia, Tom Lynch learned to play basketball at St. Matthew’s School on Cottman Avenue and on the playgrounds in the neighborhood, where few fouls were ever called. He became a star guard at Father Judge High School, where students took the Route 66 trackless trolley along Frankford Avenue to Solly Avenue and walked up the big hill to one of the loudest gymnasiums in the Catholic League.

Lynch was the team’s second-leading scorer in his junior and senior years, with 12 and 15.7 points per game respectively, enough to garner the attention of legendary St. Joseph’s University coaches Jack Ramsay and Jack McKinney.

Lynch went to Hawk Hill, and as a sophomore, played on the 1967-’68 St. Joe’s Big Five championship team when all the games were played at the storied Palestra – the historic mecca of Philadelphia basketball on the University of Pennsylvania campus. The three other teams were Temple, Villanova and LaSalle, and the rivalries were intense during doubleheaders where fans were packed in up to the rafters.

After graduation, Lynch married his high-school sweetheart, Joan, and moved to Cinnaminson, bringing his love of basketball with him. He started the Cinnaminson PAL (Police Athletic League) basketball clinic for kindergarten, first- and second-grade students in 1982, and ran it for 36 years.

Lynch passed away on Aug. 9, 2023, nearly two years after the death of Joan, his wife of 50 years.

“My dad always had someone behind him, my mom,” recalled TJ, who played basketball for Cinnaminson High School, as did his sister and brother. “It’s amazing to see so many people here today,” he added at the dedication. “Thank you.”

“This is beautiful,” noted Mayor Paul Conda, who was at the sign unveiling along with members of the township committee and opened the dedication ceremony. “It’s a fitting turnout for a well-deserving man. Tom saw basketball as a way to give back to the community.”

“Tom sure made a lot of friends over the years,” recalled Township Administrator Eric Schubiger as he looked out on the large crowd at the new basketball courts. “Tom always stressed the need for children to understand the fundamentals before moving into game situations, and wanted to create an environment where kids of all abilities felt included.

“He would enjoy it when parents that he instructed in the clinic would bring the next generation of kids to the gym,” Schubiger added. “Through his patience, generosity of time and kind spirit, he positively impacted the lives of thousands of children in the Cinnaminson community.”

After completing his studies at St. Joe’s, Lynch taught and coached basketball at Germantown Academy and St. Joseph’s Prep, both in Philadelphia, while earning his master’s in education from Villanova University.

Besides running the basketball clinic, Lynch went on to coach the St. Charles Borromeo CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and Cinnaminson PAL teams. An active member of Sacred Heart Parish in Riverton, he taught religious education classes and served as a Eucharistic minister.

In his later years, Lynch could be seen on the sidelines cheering on his grandchildren at various sporting events. But most of all, he liked to pass on his love for the game of basketball to younger generations.

Now, when children come to shoot hoops at Wood Park, they will see the sign that now honors Tom Lynch and think of what he always said: “Get outside and play.”

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