June 29--LAS CRUCES -- Basketball has helped Tommy Morrow retain his sanity throughout a trying time in his personal life.
After his north Las Cruces home was destroyed in a February fire, Morrow's family has been displaced while being engaged in a red tape waiting game. Morrow still had a basketball team to coach at Mayfield last season. The winter season turned into managing the Trojans summer schedule, where the Trojans played in the New Mexico State University team camp over the weekend.
"I'm committed to doing the best I can with everything and basketball was kind of a normalizing activity for me," Morrow said. "It was a nice group of kids to spend time with."
Investigators ruled Morrow's house a total loss, claiming an electrical fire in the attic destroyed the 3,200 square foot structure that Morrow, wife Sandy and children Emerson and Isabella Morrow and Grady and Gavin Easterling, called home.
June is a busy month for high school coaches as they travel to team camps, but for Morrow, the struggle to begin construction on a new home enters its fifth month.
Morrow said he has collected roughly $$291,000 in insurance from primary insurance company Horace Mann, but is still waiting on the 'umbrella' policy from another company to pay off, which could yield anywhere from zero to more than enough to replace the home on the one-acre plot of land on River Wood Road.
Morrow's agent at Horace Manne is Jim Hawk, who is married to Mayfield principal Jo Beth Hawk. Morrow said Jim Hawk was working on his claim as the Morrow house burned on the night of Feb. 21.
"Horace Mann actually hooked us up with a rental house that is pretty fancy," Morrow said. "Everybody is kind of nervous about what will happen next. It was quite an experience on the first night as we were watching the flames, people were coming up to me and literally stuffing money in my pockets. On the Sunday morning, our booster club set up a car wash and normally in this town if you get $400 or $500 that's pretty good, but they made $5,000."
There was also donations from basketball rivals Las Cruces High, Oñate, Centennial and Carlsbad.
The hope is to ultimately build a more efficient, smaller home on the same plot of land, which would cost roughly $310,000, Morrow said. But nothing happens until the second insurance company makes a ruling.
"We have a Plan A and a Plan B and Plan A would be a more efficient house and that would bring retirement into play," said Morrow, who enters his 30th year as a teacher in New Mexico and his 15th at Mayfield High. "Plan B, we would still have a mortgage."
In the meantime, Morrow takes care of his animals, garden, property and basketball team each day.
At least he still has a roof over his head and the sport he has coached all over the state.
"What we learned is that there is a lot of good in people," Morrow said. "It's humbling, but also life affirming. It's showed our kids that, A, we are going to be OK and B, people care."
Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459
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