Hanson, drafted by the New Orleans Jazz, played professionally in Italy, France, Ireland and many years for the Mohawks before becoming a player-coach, then coach, and eventually running the entire organization, which includes numerous youth teams.
Longtime NCAA assistant coach Patrick Sellers, older brother of UConn’s Rod Sellers, played at Central Connecticut, was on Jim Calhoun’s UConn staff and is now at Fairleigh Dickinson. He played two years for the Mohawks in the 1990s.
“I was 21 and Tony might have been 35, 36,” Sellers said “One day we had a game and I’m picking him up. I go in and the baby’s crying, all this other chaos. He gets in the car and I’m thinking, ‘This guy’s going to have a bad game.’ He proceeds to go for 45 points, and then he told me, ‘Anything that’s going on outside the court, you leave it there. When you get to the court you handle your business.’ To this day, I use that with all our freshmen. Anything going on — school, girlfriend, whatever — you leave it outside. When you’re done with the game, you go back and handle it. I was blown away by how smooth he was.”
On the court, Hanson was comfortable, in control.
He was the same off the court.
“A one of a kind as player, one of a kind as a person, one of a kind reaching out to touch others,” Rowe said. “He was never captured by himself, it seemed to me. People knew his background, but he seemed in so many ways to be humble about all he’s done. He was an awesome leader in every way. He had a great spirit. He’d come to [UConn] games in recent years and might never tell me he’s coming. Then I’d say ‘Tone, I’ve got to help you get a better seat.’ He’d say, ‘I’ll be all right.’ All he accomplished here, and he had a certain humility about him.”
Hanson returned to Windham three years ago and took up charitable work with the Hartford Knights Youth Organization with much of his family remaining in Billingham, about 25 miles south of Newcastle. He and wife Sandy split time in both countries. Sandy had just returned last week from a trip to Connecticut and Hanson was scheduled to return to England for Christmas.
Instead, Sandy traveled to Connecticut early Monday and spent part of the day with Alex, Rowe, Abromaitis and others looking to wrap their mind around unthinkable heartbreak. The couple has five children.
Hundreds others considered him a basketball dad.