Jake Jackson coached the Peninsula High School boys basketball team to its most wins in school history this past year.
But Wednesday he stood in front of his now former team and teared up as he read to them a three-page letter announcing he is vacating the position to take over the program at Sumner.
“I was up there in front of them and I was crying — just from all the emotions that I’ve invested into that program and community,” Jackson said. “They know how much I care about Peninsula basketball.
“I typed that three-page letter and read it aloud and they understand. They know I gave every ounce of energy I possibly could. They understand I live in Sumner and coaching in the town I live in is more realistic.”
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Peninsula athletic director Ross Filkins said the school has opened Jackson’s position and has already heard from a few candidates. He doesn’t have a hard deadline to fill it, but they’d like to have a coach in place before summer camps.
“Having to travel from Sumner to Peninsula six days a week shows just how committed he was to Peninsula basketball here,” Filkins said. “Jake has built a very strong program. We expect to have a lot of interest in the position.”
Jackson, who is also the CEO of Sterling Athletics, returns to Sumner, where he was a varsity assistant from 2010-12 under then-coach Brett McDaniel, who stepped down after this past season. That was Jackson’s first coaching gig after leaving the University of Arizona, where he was a graduate assistant in the men’s basketball program under Sean Miller.
“I know Jake and Brett have that history, and when Jake reached out to me and told me he was applying for the position, I was excited to hear that,” Sumner athletic director Jeff Baines said. “I love Jake, I love his energy, I love watching him coach because he coaches with his heart and usually that heart is on his sleeve in a positive way, I think.”
Jackson was 58-35 in his four years at Peninsula.
But consider where it started. He turned around a program that had gone 6-55 in the three years before he took over and led it to three consecutive winning seasons, including a school-record 21 wins this past year behind Oregon State-bound point guard JaQuori McLaughlin. The season ended with a loss to Cleveland in the regional round of the 3A state tournament.
Jackson said he’s had to travel 20,000 miles a year between Sumner and Peninsula.
“I think it was just the right timing,” Jackson said. “It was hard to say goodbye, but in life, your time sheds light on your priorities and spending 20,000 miles a year in my car instead of with my family was a huge factor. But also the other factor is just coming back home to where I first started my coaching career in high school and impacting the lives of students in my community. That, to me, is very special.”
Sumner went 14-9 this past season, reaching the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament. Sumner handed Peninsula its first loss of the season on Feb. 2 after the Seahawks started 14-0.
Sumner will leave the 3A SPSL to join a new-look 4A SPSL next year.
Jackson said he plans to instill his “Gold Standard” and “Do What We Do” like he did at Peninsula.
“I’m just excited to see how Jake is going to fit into the Sumner culture because I think it’s going to be a perfect fit,” Baines said.
“I joked with him (Wednesday) a little bit and told him, ‘I hope I don’t have to do this (hiring) again for another 20 years.’ And he said ‘No, I’m bought in.’ ”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677