Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FORT MADISON - Fort Madison High School, Lee County, Iowa sports and the world lost more than a girls basketball coach Thursday when George A. “Tony” Sargent passed away in an Iowa City hospital after falling ill Tuesday.
He was an advocate for girls basketball, a father, grandfather, husband, brother, friend, dog owner, realtor, hunter, fisherman, member of booster clubs, Elks, Iowa Girls Coaches Association and had support and friendship for all.
Starting in 1973 at the YMCA, Sargent coached basketball throughout his life. He became a high school varsity coach at Keokuk Cardinal Stritch and also coached at Central Lee. He had completed his third year as the Bloodhounds coach this winter. Sargent led the 2020-21 Bloodhounds to their first Southeast Conference title since 1998.
The Fort Madison School District released a statement Friday morning regarding his passing that said the district “is deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Tony Sargent. Tony has been an inspiration not only as a coach for our Fort Madison Girls High School basketball program, but also as a friend and mentor to our staff, students, and families. Our thoughts and prayers are with Tony’s family and friends at this time.”
There is no current thought as to who would step into the head coach role vacated by Sargent’s passing.
“At this time I have no comment in addition to the one the district posted on our Facebook page,” Fort Madison athletic director Jeff Lamb said. “Our thoughts and focus are on his family and we are not thinking about his position at this time.”
Sargent’s obituary mentions that he was “proud of winning second place at the Iowa State Basketball Tournament in 2001.”
One member of that team, Jennifer Goetz, was the same age as Sargent’s daughter and had been coached by Sargent since the third grade.
“It’s a surprising loss, I’m not going to lie,” Goetz said when she spoke with the Daily Democrat Sunday morning. “I just can’t say enough that he was a very caring and supportive man who loved the game. I have a lot of memories when I think back about everything he has done. His family has been in my prayers the last couple days.”
Goetz, a member of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the first player to record over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career, three years first team all-state, three consecutive years in the state tournament, Class 1A Player of the Year in 2003, went to St. Ambrose University where she had an impressive career and then followed Sargent into coaching.
“I wish we had more coaches, no not just coaches, more people that have the heart like Tony did,” Goetz said. “Everything he did was out of love and he would do anything for you. The more people we can have like that in our world, I think our world might be a little bit better place.”
Goetz said he was a good coach, a great coach but more than that he was a good person with a giving heart who loved the game of basketball, especially women’s basketball.
“You could see that in his actions and in his coaching and in everything he has done,” Goetz said.
Goetz is currently a special education teacher at the junior high level at Pleasant Valley and in her 11th season coaching the Spartans, who won their first-ever game at the state tournament this season under Goetz, her 202nd career coaching win.
Sargent has a career record of 211-81. Fort Madison won eight games in 2019-20, his first season at the helm, then 17 each over the next two seasons. The Bloodhounds were 3-19 in 2018-19.
Sargent coached Goetz through her sophomore year when the Lionettes lost the championship game in Class 1A.
The relationship between coach and player started because of basketball but it went beyond that and eventually “really had nothing to do with basketball,” Goetz said. “He cared so much about you and I think any one of his players would tell you the same thing.“
He was there the night Goetz was inducted into the Hall of Fame and anytime she needed him he was just a phone call away. “His love and support continued. I just knew he was always there.“
Goetz said much of her coaching style, philosophy, rules and emotions were learned under Sargent’s tutelage.
There was never any doubt about his support for players, for the school for the program and for girls basketball in general.
“I played so hard for him because you knew how much he cared, how much he loved you.“
In her only season as coach of Davenport Assumption, she won the 2010 Class 3A state championship.
As a coach, Goetz tries to emulate Sargent. She makes sure players know she would do anything for them. It was a fact that Sargent cared about them as more than basketball players. They are bound to work hard and do anything asked of them.
“I have been blessed with some amazing coaches but I was so much more than just a basketball player to him.“
Any day, any time Goetz knew if she needed anything, Sargent was there for her. He was just a text message or phone call away and she knew he would be there.
“The world would be a much better place if there were more people like him.”