Saint Francis plays at Sacred Heart today, and there’s some pretty cool history surrounding the teams’ first meeting 21 years ago.
The Red Flash beat the Pioneers, who were new to Division I, on Feb. 10, 2000 at DeGol Arena, 87-66. The two leading scorers for Saint Francis in that game were Tom Fox and none other than current coach Rob Krimmel.
They were both seniors on that 1999-2000 team, and the next year, Krimmel began his coaching career as an assistant at Saint Francis under Bobby Jones. Krimmel became head coach of the Flash in 2012.
I covered that Sacred Heart game in 2000 for the Altoona Mirror — it was my first year on the Saint Francis beat — and this is from the game story after that victory.
LORETTO — St. Francis allowed a blowout to become a close game, then regrouped and crushed Sacred Heart Thursday night at DeGol Arena.
The Red Flash shot the lights out in the second half and finished 13-of-21 from 3-point territory for the game in their most lopsided win of the year, 87-66.
“We get our shots in transition,” said Flash guard Rob Krimmel, who tossed in 18 points and hit 5-of-6 3-pointers. “The shots that we got and made tonight were in transition. … When we get easy buckets like that we’re hard to play with.”
Tom Fox, who tied Krimmel for game-high scoring honors with 18 points, yelled out “Yes” a few seconds later after a Sacred Heart turnover, a sign all momentum had swung to the Flash.
“We’re at our best when we’re running,” Fox said. “The second half we really came out and ran, and the shots were falling.”
Fox is still around the program a lot and serves as the team’s color commentator on radio broadcasts. He’s also still great friends with Krimmel, so as SFU gets set to play Sacred Heart, I reached out to Fox to discuss what Krimmel was like as a player back then.
“He really was the ultimate teammate in my opinion,” Fox said. “I thought I was a hard worker, and I was a hard worker. But Rob Krimmel is in the dictionary for hard work. He’s a guy that cared about the team above everything else.”
Fox tells a story of how the team used to run on Cresson Mountain and that he had the team record for fastest time.
“Then Rob Krimmel and his 25 lungs showed up the next year and just shattered my record,” Fox said with a laugh.
Fox, a post player, noted, “I have a lot of fond memories being up in the summer at DeGol with Rob and working on inside-outside stuff.”
Krimmel was an outstanding shooter in college and finished his career with 135 3-pointers (shooting 39.8 percent). He averaged 8.4 points as a junior and 10.1 as a senior.
“Rob really did a nice job coming off flare screens, and he also could shoot off the pull-up, off the ball screen,” Fox said. “Bobby Jones ran a lot of those high ball screens — he called it fist — and Rob really had range. He could shoot of the dribble as well as off the catch.
“He was so good at entering the ball in the post. With Eric Taylor getting doubled down, Rob was so good at relocating and knocking down the shot. … I’d get the ball, and I knew where he was relocating.”
Fox has always been so proud of his friend getting an opportunity to coach their alma mater, and Krimmel has done sensational work turning a struggling Red Flash program into a consistent power in the Northeast Conference.
“The pride is immeasurable,” Fox said. “Saint Francis, it’s tough to recruit there, and he’s signing these diamonds in the rough.
“I was talking to him this fall, we were just sitting, and I said, Rob, none of us had the success as players that he’s had as a coach, but it just feels like we’re having that success with him.
“When he came in, a lot of people questioned it. I honest to God knew it was the right move because he’ just an incredible human being. In the business there are a lot of people that act one way but they aren’t that way. But Rob Krimell is as he appears. He’s as good a guy as there is.”
Fox, a teacher in the Altoona Area School District, will have a new book out soon, available at Amazon and other locations. It’s called “A Penny’s Thoughts,” and in this good story from the Altoona student newspaper, the Mountain Echo, he described it as “a work of inspirational fiction that tells the story of an American penny’s journey through circulation.”
Fox used a pen name for the book.
“I chose the pen name Tommy O’Sionnach (pronounced O-Shun-ick ) as it used to be my family’s name in Ireland until about the 1700s,” he told the Mountain Echo. “It means “Son of the Fox” and was anglicized to just Fox almost 300 years ago,” Fox said.
“I’m pretty excited,” Fox said. “I think it’s a great story. Turn everything off and read a story about a penny.”