I have to be the luckiest guy in the world. The way things have opened up for me and the people I’ve had the chance to learn from and become a better person. —Wasatch coach Jason Long
HEBER CITY — Jason Long is wasting no time preparing himself for his new job as the Wasatch High School boys basketball coach. He has always felt an opportunity like this would eventually present itself for him. After all, it’s his calling. To understand this would be to spend some time talking with the young man with Utah roots.
Long, an assistant coach at Westminster College and instructor in the Utah Pump-N-Run youth basketball program since 2004, stumbled on the opening left vacant by former head coach Lonnie Magnusson quite accidentally.
“I was at the Morgan game down at Weber because some of the Wasatch players I knew from AAU and Pump-N-Run were playing,” stated Long. “I didn’t know anything about Wasatch needing a new coach next year. When I heard some people talking about it, I decided to look into it and basically threw my hat in the ring.”
Long, who began at Westminster in 2000 as an undergraduate assistant with the women’s team, knew he wanted to pursue coaching basketball as a profession, but wasn’t sure how he would make his way in.
“I applied for the student manager’s job,” he recalled. “The boys job was taken so they put me with the girls team, which disappointed me." Despite Long being put on the women’s squad, it turned out to be the biggest break he could imagine.
“The assistant coach at the time was a volunteer and a lawyer, so he wasn’t around too much because of a really busy schedule,” Long remembers. “I basically went from filling water bottles to breaking down film from the first practice. I was 18 and suddenly in charge of the girls team defense. It was amazing.”
Long remained in that capacity at Westminster through 2004 when he graduated. He then took a position with the men’s team as an assistant coach, where he worked and learned under current University of Utah assistant Tommy Connor until 2009.
A decision to return to class and get his master's degree is what led Long’s decision to leave Westminster and take an assistant coaching position at Highland High School. It turned out to be another defining move for the young coach as he helped lead Highland to a state championship in 2011.
“I was very happy at Westminster, but wanted to continue my studies,” Long said. “I basically had to make the decision because of time conflict. It worked out for me in the long run. The Highland experience was awesome.”
After returning to Westminster as an assistant on the boys team, Long felt fortunate to have his old job back, but knew in the back of his mind that the perfect job would come his way if he just stayed his course.
He put in extra time with Pump-N-Run, developing young kids and their basketball skills. “It’s been great to have that experience because it has basically kept me in contact with so many future high school players in Utah,” said Long. “It’s really the connection that led me to Wasatch.”
Wasatch has had a tremendous run of basketball success in recent years and Long is aware of the tradition. His plan is not to come in and change everything as much as it is to help define it. “I know a lot of the players we have coming back,” he said. “I’ve either coached them or coached against them at some point. There is a lot of talent currently in this program and I intend to use it to its fullest.”
Working to build for the future might be the most exciting part of the new endeavor for the young coach. He will work hard building the youth program so players know what to expect when they finally lace up their sneakers at Wasatch High.
A defensive-minded coach who will stress fundamentally sound basketball, Long believes Wasatch players will love his style of coaching and adapt to quick-paced practices and the fun, competitive atmosphere he hopes to create create. “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun and I expect the players to have the same attitude,” Long said.
In May, Long will marry his girlfriend Stacy — at Westminster — and become the father to her two young sons, Carter, 7 and Max, 4. He is excited about the new challenge of becoming a husband and a father and to have the opportunity to settle in to the Wasatch community.
“I’m very blessed right now,” said Long. “I have to be the luckiest guy in the world. The way things have opened up for me and the people I’ve had the chance to learn from and become a better person — and coach it’s just like a dream really.”
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to DNews Preps for your area, enquire at 801.237.2143.