The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 26, 2014

Hafer elevated to Joplin's head basketball coach

Williams steps down, but will remain as assistant

— Jeff Hafer and Jeff Williams are trading chairs on the Joplin High School boys basketball bench.

Hafer, a 1996 JHS graduate, has been promoted from assistant coach to head coach of the Eagles, a move that was approved Tuesday night by the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

“I’m real excited,” Hafer said. “It’s been a goal of mine since I got the opportunity to come back to Joplin. Being a Joplin guy ... it’s fun to be back at my alma mater and build on what Coach Williams started here. There are a lot of good things in the future I hope.”

Williams, who will be an assistant for Hafer, compiled a 64-61 record as the Eagles’ head coach during the past five seasons. He was head coach at Chanute High School — his alma mater — for 14 years, directing the Blue Comets to a 206-135 record. He also spent 14 years as an assistant in Chanute — 11 at the high school and three at Neosho County Community College.

“Coach Hafer and I have been talking about making this transition for a year or so,” Williams said. “I think the timing is really good right now. I have four little grandchildren that now maybe I can spend a little more time with. I’ve been a head coach and an assistant coach, and I’m comfortable at both.

“We’ve been coaching by committee. It’s a changing of the guard, but Jeff will be an excellent leader for us. ... I think it will be a smooth transition. We broke the news to the kids (Wednesday), and I don’t think they skipped a beat. The first day was really good, and I anticipate every day to be like that.”

Hafer said that Jake Williams, Jeff Williams’ son, and volunteer coach Jim Graffam also will remain on staff.

There wasn’t any pressure from school administrators for the coaching change.

“Coach Williams came to me a couple of years ago and said this is what he would like to see happen,” said Jeff Starkweather, Joplin athletics director. “When he would like to step down, he would like to still be a part of the program and he would like to see Hafer be the next basketball coach.

“At the end of the season we would evaluate it. Last year he said he wanted to go another year. This year he came in and said I think it’s time to take it to the board.”

Hafer started three years for the Eagles, his sophomore and junior seasons for coach Bob Tignor and his senior season for Starkweather. The Eagles reached the state tournament quarterfinals his sophomore season and lost in the district tournament championship game the next two years.

“Jeff has a great basketball mind,” Starkweather said. “He’s a Joplin guy, he’s back home. ... He’s played at the highest level, and he’s coached at the college level as well. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our kids.”

After high school, Hafer played four years for the Missouri Tigers, seeing coach Norm Stewart’s career end and Quin Snyder’s tenure start. He was an assistant coach under Gene Iba at Pittsburg State from 2001-08.

“I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from some very talented and wise basketball men,” Hafer said. “I’m anxious and excited for the chance to show what I learned through those experiences.

“I’m excited to be at Joplin. Everybody likes to go home and be a part of what was special to them when they were growing up. It’s a humbling and exciting opportunity for me.”

Hafer has been a head coach before — golf coach at Pittsburg State for three years.

“I was associate head (basketball) coach at Pitt State,” Hafer said, “but it’s a little different when you move over one seat.”

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