Six years ago, La Quinta boys’ basketball coach Jeff Hepner said he was hired to, among other things, win the program’s first Desert Valley League title.
After his senior-laden squad came from behind late to defeat Palm Desert 57-50 on the road Feb. 12 in their final regular season game to clinch a DVL title, Hepner’s primary goal was complete.
On Monday, he decided it was time to throw in the towel — for now, at least — stepping down as the head basketball coach. Instead, Hepner said he has plans to coach and spend time with a much younger athlete: his three-and-a-half year old son, Quintus.
“I plan on being a part of La Quinta for a while, but now it’s time to be a dad,” Hepner said Wednesday.
The former Blackhawks head coach said the thought of stepping down began to creep in a couple weeks after La Quinta’s season ended with a loss in their first game in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA tournament. He remembers having what he called “one of those dad moments” when he realized he had been missing too much of his young son’s life.
“He’s approaching that five-year period that you can’t ever take back,” Hepner said about Quintus. “I’m really looking forward to coaching Little League.”
Then, in last Friday’s first annual Desert Valley All-Star Game, as his star senior guard Jared Broadhead threw in a buzzer-beater for Hepner’s team, he felt like maybe that was the perfect way to go out, leaving with his 10 seniors.
“I kinda feel like I’m graduating with them,” Hepner said. “I feel like I’ve gone full circle.”
Hepner said he still plans on staying at La Quinta to teach history, but he added he’s a little uncertain what life without basketball will be like.
“I’m kinda happy, maybe a little uncertain … basketball has been a part of my life forever,” Hepner said. “But I feel like I’m leaving (the team) a better place than when I got here.”