Welcome home, Jake Jackson.
At the beginning of Sumner High athletic director Jeff Baines’ search for a new boys basketball coach, he got a phone call.
It wasn’t a typical phone call — or the average person — like many Baines takes during his office hours at the high school on W Main St. It was the ultimate sales pitch for Jackson, who has spent the last four years coaching boys basketball at Peninsula High.
“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.
That recommendation and one unanimous decision later, Sumner selected Jackson as its new boys basketball coach.
“(He was the) obvious No. 1 choice by the committee, and we really went through a normal process in hiring for the position,” Baines said. “Jake did a really nice job of talking about character, and a lot of things he’s about in the last three to four years at Peninsula (High).”
Sumner had a great pool of candidates, but it was Jackson’s sit-down interview that stood out during the process.
“He really earned the respect of the committee during (his) interview,” Baines said of his impressions during last week’s meeting with Jackson. “A lot of the things we were looking for were centered around our players, centered around building relationships, and that whole character piece. All of the people we interviewed know their X’s and O’s. I felt good there.
“But (I was) very impressed with the way that he (Jackson) is organized, and the way he puts players first, character first and the basketball piece — the winning and the losing — will fall into place.”
Jackon’s hire comes a little over a month after former Sumner coach Brett McDaniel stepped down in late February after accumulating a 124-93 record over his nine-year career.
“Jake is a go-getter on steroids, if you will. Some guys are go-getters, but this guy, you sometimes have to calm him down,” said McDaniel, who had Jackson as an assistant from 2010-12 before he left to accept the head job at Peninsula. “He just gets after it so much. What I mean is, he just goes all in whether it’s his professional life, with Sterling Athletics, or with his personal life son and wife. He’s the kind of guy who puts everything into it.”
Jackson, who is also the CEO of Sterling Athletics, returns to Sumner, the place of his first coaching gig after leaving the University of Arizona, where he was a graduate assistant in the men’s basketball program under Sean Miller.
“Jake’s definitely going to give everything he has to this job. Sumner’s going to do some big things next year, and I’m sad I won’t be a part of it. But I’m excited for him (Jackson) and the future of the program and community,” McDaniel added.
Ever since McDaniel arrived at Sumner, he has built a vibrant youth basketball program that has become the backbone of all Spartan basketball programs. When McDaniel stepped down, there was a hope that would continue to be a major focus with the next coach.
With Jackson, those hopes have been answered.
“What Brett has done with our youth programs was a major factor in our decision process with anyone of the candidates that were interviewed,” Baines said. “That’s huge to him, and he’s already comes up with some ideas, but we haven’t gone into too much details yet.”
With Jackson now set to coach Sumner boys basketball, and the Spartans readying for their move up into the Class 4A South Puget Sound League next year, the future looks good for the Sumner High and community at large.