Peninsula High boys basketball coach Jake Jackson has accepted the head coaching job of the boys basketball program at Sumner High School.
Jackson compiled a 58-35 record in four years at the helm of Peninsula, taking a fledgling basketball program and putting it into the conversation among the state’s top teams in Class 3A. The Seahawks went 54-19 over the last three seasons.
Jackson was previously an assistant at Sumner High School under coach Brett McDaniel, who resigned at the end of the season.
“Brett McDaniel didn’t want to resign unless I took over his program,” Jackson said Thursday. “He’s done a lot. I’m close with him. He didn’t have any complete say but he definitely recommended me to take over.”
Jackson said the decision was primarily about being closer to home. Jackson, who lives about two miles away from the campus of Sumner High, estimates he logs about 20,000 miles per year traveling to and from Peninsula. That was time that could’ve been spent with his wife and 1-year-old son, he said.
“My life has evolved quickly,” Jackson said. “Twenty-thousand miles is a lot of minutes away from my family. I’m excited to coach youth in the town I live in. it’s a different dynamic to not coach in the town you live in. To come back to Sumner, that’s going to be special. To me that’s very important; to impact lives in youth of the town I live in is a big deal.”
Sumner is also moving up to Class 4A next season, which provides a potentially bigger challenge for Jackson. But he said that wasn’t one of main factors in his decision.
“People have brought that up, but no,” Jackson said. “It’s not one of the top three reasons I left. I’m more about life development and character building more than trying to win. The results will come. Winning is fine, but to me it’s more of the process of instilling those character traits and core values, getting them ready for the game of life. It takes time but we can get it up and implement it.”
Sumner High athletic director Jeff Baines’ received the ultimate sales pitch for Jackson.
“When the position was opened, there were people reaching and contacting me about the positive things they see about Jake. (He) seems to be a highly-respected young man,” Baines said. “Including by (former Arizona men’s basketball coach) Lute Olson, who called me.”
There, on the phone, unprovoked and personally giving his recommendation was former Arizona Wildcats coach Lute Olson (1983-2008), a Basketball Hall of Fame (2002) and College Basketball Hall of Fame (2006) inductee, calling Baines to recommend one of his former Wildcat assistants.
“Jake has gained the respect of the people he’s worked for. (Olson) described him as first-class,” Baines said.
Peninsula is graduating five seniors, who have been the core of the program for the past several years. Most notably, the Seahawks graduate Oregon State signee JaQuori McLaughlin, the school’s all-time leading scorer. But losing that core of players didn’t make the decision any easier, Jackson said.
“I’m super close with everyone in the program,” Jackson said. “We lose five crucial parts of our program but we have nine guys coming back. It’s never a good time to leave. Even with those seniors leaving, I was still really excited to coach the rest of those guys. We have a solid, solid core coming back. Winning is going to happen at Peninsula. The passion for the sport in the community has never been higher.”
When Jackson first arrived at Peninsula, he felt like basketball was an afterthought. That’s no longer the case.
“We had three or four students in our student section at the beginning,” Jackson said. “It took a lot of time. Once we established the energy and excitement, you’d be amazed. We had more students at our away games than the homes team did. Where it’s currently at, I’m super proud of the overall belief and support of our community members. Those kids are believers now. … When you create a culture like that, that makes me super proud.”
Puyallup Herald sports editor Kevin Manning contributed to this story.