Not many people get the opportunity to play and coach at their alma mater.
Jeff Hafer is one of few who did, and he will be forever thankful for the opportunity Joplin High School granted him seven years ago.
“Having played at Joplin years and years ago and then to be the head coach, that was certainly a goal of mine,” Hafer said. “I’m very thankful Jeff Williams gave me a chance to be his assistant. (Athletics director) Jeff Starkweather and Dr. (Kerry) Sachetta gave me the chance to be head coach. I was really grateful for that. I’m thankful because I have a lot of great memories not just as a player, but certainly as a coach, and the kids I was fortunate enough to coach who accomplished so much over the last seven years. I’m really proud of what they did and the opportunity they gave me.”
Hafer has resigned as the head boys basketball coach at Joplin, the school announced Wednesday night on Twitter.
“This afternoon Coach Hafer informed our team that he is resigning from his position as head boys basketball coach,” the Joplin athletics Twitter account (@JHS_Athletics) posted. “Coach Hafer led our program to conference and district championship during his tenure. We are grateful for his leadership over the last seven years and wish him the best.”
Under his tenure, Hafer led the team to district championships in 2018 and 2020. The Eagles went 12-13 this past season and suffered a 80-72 season-ending loss to Republic in the Class 6 District 12 semifinal game on Tuesday night.
It’s a decision Hafer has been contemplating for some time now.
“I had my oldest son (Tommy) graduate last year,” Hafer said. “I began thinking about it a little bit then. Throughout this year, I contemplated it more. (Tommy) is playing at Columbia College and then my daughter (Ella) is going to be a senior next year. My youngest son (Whit) is a sophomore. I haven’t been able to watch or be involved in what they have done over the last 20 years because I have been coaching at Pitt State, coaching at Joplin.
“I knew it was time to move in that direction because I have a small window of time to chase my kids around, get to be their dad and watch them play. I’m looking forward to the next chapter with my wife and chasing (my kids) around.”
Hafer is a 1996 graduate of Joplin where he was a three year starter on the basketball team. He played his sophomore and junior seasons for 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. After high school, he played for 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.
Next season, Joplin will be without Hafer on the sidelines as coach for the first time since 2014-15. He said whoever is next in line for the position will have a “great nucleus” of players who gained varsity experience, including Always and All Wright, Dante Washington, Bruce Wilbert, LT Atherton and Terrance Gibson.
“We had some excellent senior leadership,” Hafer said. “We have a group of juniors who will be seniors next year that will have four years of varsity basketball experience under their belt. Always will be a senior and a guy a lot of people will be excited to have the opportunity to coach as well as All, Dante, Bruce, LT and Terrance… A lot of guys that have gotten the opportunity to play varsity basketball this year. The nucleus is good, and it’s a really attractive job because you have got some talent coming through, the pieces are there for several years to come.”