By Jim Henry
PITTSBURG, Kan. — Jeff Hafer was born to coach.
“It’s in my blood. It’s who I am,” he said. “My wife finally looked at me and said ‘You have to coach. That’s what you are.’ That’s where it really changed for us.”
Hafer was an assistant basketball coach at Pittsburg State for seven of Gene Iba’s 15-year tenure, the first two as a graduate assistant and the next five as the top assistant. His last year he was named assistant head coach. The Gorillas averaged 17.5 victories the seven years that Hafer was on staff (2001-08) and made two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Hafer was back on campus Monday to interview to become Iba’s successor. Approximately 50 people attended a public forum at the Jack Overman Student Center when Hafer answered questions.
“I am delighted to be here,” Hafer said. “This for me has been something I worked for my entire career here. The opportunity to get the chance to be involved as the head basketball coach at Pittsburg State has been my dream. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn many things from a great many coaches who have been around this game a long time. I enjoy sharing that and teaching kids and watching them develop.”
Hafer wasn’t concerned about the reception he would receive at Pittsburg State after leaving two years ago.
“What I knew I had here at Pittsburg State were great relationships,” he said. “I didn’t leave this place on any kind of a bad term at all. There are people who I kept up with over the last two years.”
As far as his departure, “For me it was a good time with a great opportunity for me to do something for my family that I hadn’t been able to do to that point. I was a marketing representative for an insurance company in a five-county area in Missouri There are competitive arenas in those fields ... but in my mind, I knew what I wanted to do. Sometimes you have to be away from something to really find out how passionate and in love with it you are. And those around you have to see that, too. And that was easy for us. This is a family decision. All five Hafer family members are coming after this job and ready to make it ours and be part of this community.”
This past year Hafer served as a volunteer assistant coach under Jeff Williams at Joplin High School. The Eagles finished 19-8 and lost in the district final to eventual Class 5 state champion Hillcrest.
“My whole coaching career was defined by relationships,” Hafer said. “One of the best relationships I had as a player with coaches was Jeff Starkweather, who’s the athletic director at Joplin High School, which directly led me back into another opportunity to coach.
“For me, it was a progression. Getting back in at the high school level really showed me how much I enjoyed being around the kids again. Getting the opportunity of being here, I felt the timing was right, and it was good for me and my family.”
Hafer, who turns 33 in August, said his teams will play hard-nosed basketball but at a little faster pace.
“I was recruited and played for Norm Stewart (for three years at the University of Missouri). I also played for Quin Snyder,” Hafer said. “If you go to the root of those two guys, you learn to defend and you learn to rebound. My teams will defend and rebound, and if you do those two things, you’re going to be successful.
“I would like to play a little faster. I want to get up and down the floor, but I don’t think you can do that unless you guard. ... And kids like that. When kids hear they get to get out and run a little bit, they’ll probably guard a little bit harder. I like to play up-tempo a little bit, but we’re going to guard, and we’re going to rebound.”
Hafer isn’t concerned about getting a late start in recruiting.
“A late start, yes, but there are players everywhere,” Hafer said. “And as long as you get out and try to go get them, you’re going to find players. Nobody will outwork me to go and find players. My record here I think speaks for itself. Of the six All-Americans Pittsburg State has had since they’ve gone Division II, I recruited and coached three of them. We still have two months to go find players. Just because the late signing period stops in May doesn’t mean the recruiting stops in May. We’re going to go find who we need to field a team that’s going to be successful in the MIAA.
“I have success here. I know how this athletic department works. I know how this university works. I know what kind of kids we need in this program. There’s a 6-8 guy out there who wants to come to Pittsburg State. We just haven’t found him yet.”
By Jim Henry
- High School Sports
- Missouri Southern Sports
- Pittsburg State Sports
Southern tops Central Oklahoma in title game
A 3-D assault — defense, depth and determination — produced a strong second half as Missouri Southern decked Central Oklahoma 84-72 Sunday afternoon in the men’s MIAA Postseason Tournament championship game at Municipal Auditorium.Continued ...
- PSU women earn spot in NCAA tournament
- Lady Hornets claim crown
- Lions rally for split
- Lucky '7' all-star games tip-off tonight
- Southern tops Central Oklahoma in title game