By David Krueger Herald Writer
When a committee of five looked to hire a new Jackson girls basketball coach lots of people called to inquire.
In the end one stood out because of his excitement and preparedness.
Mark Haner, who has coached the Shorecrest junior varsity boys team for the past eight seasons, was selected last month as the new coach for the Jackson girls basketball team.
“He was the most prepared and enthusiastic person to take our team to the next level,” said Jackson High School Athletic Director Don Lichty. “He had a great interview. We were really impressed. Mark came in so well-prepared for the interview. He had a packet of materials that represented everything he wanted to do, from A to Z, in terms of practice, dealing with parents, coaching philosophies, drills, really everything he wanted to do.”
Haner was the last man standing from a group of four finalists that Lichty said included several successful head coaches. He will take over a program one year removed from its best finish in school history when the Timberwolves finished fourth at the 2012 state tournament.
“I’m really excited to get going with that group,” Haner said. “I’m going to have the opportunity to work with a talented group of girls right off the bat. That’s a lot of fun.”
It is the first head coaching job for Haner who has spent 12 years coaching basketball, also serving as the Scots’ freshman coach for four years. Haner graduated from Shorecrest in 2000, where he played basketball for four years and track and field for two.
He will continue to serve in his role as a track and field coach for the Scots.
“It’s definitely going to be a big change,” Haner said. “It’s going to take some getting used to. The biggest thing is just feeling out the culture at Jackson. Everyone I talk to says they have a great support system and it’s a great culture.”
Haner said his coaching philosophy is to focus on the details of the game, and make sure the Timberwolves do the little things right. He believes that should lead to sustained success for Jackson, which graduated four seniors this past season but returns first team all-Wesco South 4A guards Sierra Anderson and Faithaleen Lopez-Flores.
The Timberwolves also hope to get star guard Kelli Kingma back. Kingma missed most of her junior season with a knee injury.
“It’s pretty broad, but the focus is on the little stuff. Everything we control, we do well,” Haner said. “We win 50-50 balls. We box out. Talent will take care of things a lot of the time, but when both teams are talented it’s the little things that win the game. … I see no reason why we can’t go out and accomplish big things this year.”
Lichty said the model fitted well with what the committee was looking for, quoting legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
“The truth is, that ultimately it goes back to the John Wooden philosophy you do all the things right and winning takes care of itself in the long run,” Lichty said. “We don’t want to emphasize wins and losses because you’re going to win some lose some. We try to work on those life lessons and always improving. We’re really thrilled to have him come to Jackson and take the program to where it’s going to go.”
Haner has met the team at an introductory meet and great where he introduced himself and answered a few questions. He said he “got an exceptional vibe from the group” and that they too seemed excited to get back on the court.
Unfortunately, there’s still some time before they can do that.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve said I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting going,” Haner said with a laugh. “This isn’t a stepping stone for me. I’ve called Shorecrest home but I’m looking forward to hopefully calling Jackson home for a long time to come.
“The only thing I’m upset about is I can’t work now.”