Pascack Valley (Hillsdale, N.J.) needed an English teacher. It found a legend.
Jeff Jasper needed a next step. He found a home.
It was December of 1970 when he received a call from his father, Walt, telling him about the job opening. The opportunity was a good one, but Jeff wasn’t ready. He was living in Carmel, Calif., trying to recapture some semblance of normalcy and readjust to civilization following a harrowing, yet revelatory stint serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam.
His reality had been stripped. He needed time to get it back.
But Walt wouldn’t accept his son’s initial refusal to interview for the job. He told Jeff he would pay to fly him home. If it doesn’t work out, he said, he’d pay for his flight back.
“My dad had a great influence on me,” Jasper said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll come home.'”
Jasper got on the plane and wound up flying from California to the rest of his life.
Days later, he was a teacher. Not long after that, a coach. Forty-five years of basketball and hundreds of wins followed.
Now Jasper sits on the precipice of history, one victory shy of becoming the first girls high school basketball coach in New Jersey to earn 1,000 wins. He will go for the milestone when the Indians host Northern Highlands on Thursday.
Jasper turned Pascack Valley’s nascent girls basketball program into a powerhouse by pulverizing the notion that girls couldn’t exhibit toughness on the court and challenging his players to reach their potential.
The result? Seven Bergen County championships. Thirteen sectional titles. Six state championships.
Jasper’s 45 years, though, have never been about wins as much as lessons on life. Basketball has been the vehicle through which to teach the importance of relationships, overcoming adversity, commitment and loyalty.
Jeff Jasper came home.