Jayhawks welcome back Haase | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Jayhawks welcome back Haase

Steve Yingling

A tiny broken bone has ended Jerod Haase’s illustrious playing career, but the misfortune hasn’t removed South Tahoe High’s most famous basketball alum from the game.

The 25-year-old Haase has bounced back to take a graduate assistant position with his college alma mater – Kansas. Haase joins his former Jayhawks coach Roy Williams and his staff of Joe Holladay, Ben Miller, Neil Doherty and former teammate C.B. McGrath.

“I wouldn’t trade this job in coaching with any other job in America. I’m really excited, and I love the people I’m working with,” said Haase, who is returning to South Lake Tahoe this weekend to attend the wedding of high school chum Christi Hosman. “It’s really nice to see things from the other side. As a player, there are so many things you don’t realize that go into this.”

Haase’s promising pro basketball career was derailed by a broken scaphoid brone in his right wrist. He initially broke the bone during the opening game of his senior season at Kansas in 1996. By the end of the season in the NCAA Tournament, the pain became so severe that Haase removed himself from the lineup.

Despite undergoing two corrective surgeries, the bone has never healed properly.

“It doesn’t hurt too badly. I’ve been told that, basically, it’s the kind of bone that doesn’t heal. If I had another surgery, the chance would be even less that it would heal. I’ll hold off for a while. Maybe somewhere down the line they’ll have a new procedure and I’ll get it fixed right, and it won’t be any bother,” said Haase, who occasionally plays pickup games.

A spot on Williams’ staff opened for Haase following last season when assistant Matt Doherty accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame. The 48-year-old Williams has the highest winning percentage among active coaches at 81.9 percent with his 282-62 record.

“Everybody was promoted within, and that opened a graduate assistant spot,” Haase. “Coach Williams went out on a limb when he let me come to Kansas and I will be forever grateful. Coming to Kansas to play for him was the best decision I have ever made.”

Even though Haase has a vast understanding of the game from his playing days, he’ll start on the bottom rung of the coaching ladder at Kansas.

“I’ll be a doing a lot of different things, a lot of which is grunt work. But coach Williams is very organized and very detailed,” said Haase, who will be responsible for team equipment, grading games, grading film with other coaches and preparing game film.

“Hopefully after a year’s time I will have a really good understanding of what all goes into a basketball program, and I should feel comfortable with every aspect of it.”

Haase is starting his coaching career much the same way that his former high school coach Tom Orlich did. Orlich, the 24-year coach at South Tahoe, started as a graduate assistant in 1972 at the University of California, where Haase played his freshman season.

“The only difference is that Jerod’s going to stay there,” Orlich said. “In a lot of respects he wouldn’t mind being a high school coach, but right now he’s in a great position to see what happens at that level. When you’re at that level you do pay your dues, but he’s in a position that a lot of head coaches would love to have.

“In his position he’s going to do everything. I can remember being at the varsity and JV practices at Cal, where I would do everything from shagging balls to getting cigarettes for the head coach to writing letters for recruits. You make yourself indispensable so they can’t do things without you.”

Orlich believes Haase will help the Jayhawks most of all in the recruiting department.

“He’s out there and he’s known. Recruits liked the way he played and saw him play on TV. There’s also his ability to relate well to young players, his knowledge of the game and he’s extremely familiar with their system,” Orlich said.

There are many unknowns as Haase throws himself into his new profession. Can he constantly watch the game he played with unrivaled competitive spirit and passion? Will he keep his emotions in check as a coach like the player who never received a technical foul.

“I don’t see myself as being a raving lunatic, but I’m sure it will come out eventually,” he said. “The best coaches don’t try to change their personality. They act how they are. I think there is a niche for a different kind of personality.”

Orlich can picture the player who helped guide the Vikings to the 1992 Nevada state title, directing an NCAA Division I program within the next decade.

“He’s by far one of the most qualified persons going into the coaching profession. I envision him in the same likes of Steve Alford at Iowa or Billy Donovan at Florida. He’s from the same mold, coming from a good coaching background, relating well to players, creative … he has the whole package. He’s going to be very successful,” Orlich said.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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