As a freshman at Wabash College in Indiana, I was the face of a once glorious D3 basketball program: leading a new Coach’s first recruiting class, scoring 30 points a game and taking heated rivalry games to triple OT.
I was attracted to Wabash because I saw two new coaches, Kyle Brumett and Pat Sullivan, who were really hungry and passionate about making Wabash basketball great again.
Wabash had won a national championship in the 80s and I could tell the coaches wanted to get back to that point.
I really wanted to be part of the new second coming of Wabash Basketball — just 90 minutes north of my hometown, Bloomington, Indiana. But I was lying to myself everytime I opened my Biology textbook and began studying for a career as a dentist.
Drilling cavities just didn’t excite me like drilling threes.
So after multiple talks with my parents, it just clicked with me that I wanted to be a coach.
Basketball has been a part of me for my whole life and I’ve always cared about it. My parents really helped me realize that. I’ve always liked coaching and once I thought about being a coach, it just clicked.
At the time, Tom Crean was the head coach of Indiana University Basketball, and I was lucky that my siblings were school friends with his children. So he and I were able to connect the Summer after my Freshman season at Wabash and talk about his journey as a coach.
Then he mentioned they had an extra spot at IU when their previous walk-on left, and he offered it to me if I wanted it.
I was honestly shocked because it never once crossed my mind that it would come to this, but my gut reaction was that I had to do it. I thought this was a dream in one aspect, and the best thing possible for my career path as a coach.
So how could I turn it down?
Growing up here, it’s every kid’s dream to put on an Indiana uniform and doing that every game day is a dream come true.
So I red-shirted my first year at IU, but I learned a lot from Coach Crean.
He was so fiery and so into the details and he demanded perfection out of you and a lot of times that brought the best out of you. Then IU hired new head coach Archie Miller in my second year.
He has the intellect and knows the ins and outs of every position and the way the team respects him is unbelievable. I’ve been lucky in that respect, that I’ve been able to learn from and see how multiple coaches conduct their team.
Now my role is to come in every single day, go as hard as I can, and make the guys that are playing every single day more ready for the games.
I’ll be on scout teams and my job is to try and beat them and try to score to make it easier on them for the games. I’m also a major bright spot and encourager on the sidelines.
It’s not been an easy transition because my whole life I’ve been used to playing.
But I knew that going into this opportunity, that this wasn’t going to be my role anymore and in the long run I’m still playing basketball every single day against guys who are going to play in the NBA.
Plus I get to be around the players and interact with them and see how they think and talk about the coaches. I’ve accepted that I’m not “the guy” anymore but I still work every day with the hopes of getting on the floor, even though I realize my current role on this team.
The plan is to finish out my career at IU and hopefully become a Graduate Assistant here because there wouldn’t be a better place than Indiana to be a GA.
In the long run, I think college would be ideal level to coach at because you’re coaching people who want to get to the next level and give 110% percent every day. When you’re around guys 18-24 years of age at a developing point in their life and helping sculpting them that is truly great.
Ultimately, it’s a tough business and it’s not cut out for everybody. It’s high pressure and being a head coach is a long journey. But for me, I’m 100% on coaching.
Johnny Jager | Contributor