With both teams having a new coach for the third straight season, trust and commitment will be first and foremost when it comes to upgrading the boys basketball programs at Vista Grande and Casa Grande Union.
John H. Jackson III has been hired to coach Vista Grande, and Gino Crump Sr. will be the man in charge at CG Union. Although they have never been high school head coaches, both have rich basketball backgrounds.
Jackson began his coaching career at Malibu (California) High School in 1994 after playing professionally in Italy and Mexico, then spent four years as an assistant at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, and three seasons as an assistant at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. While at CGCC, Jackson began a five-year stint as an assistant coach and trainer for men’s and women’s youth national teams in France, Russia, Spain and Poland.
Crump is the head coach of the Arizona Magic, an AAU club team that has produced five NBA players, according to its website. The Magic went 34-8 in 2014 and have averaged 30 wins per season in his three years at the helm. Prior to coaching the Magic, he was the director of basketball operations at the Montgomery Sports Association in Potomac, Maryland, from 2005-08, and an assistant coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., from 2005-07.
All three of Crump’s children earned NCAA Division-I scholarships. One son played football at Arizona, another played basketball at Baylor and his daughter was a track and field athlete at Seton Hall. Jackson’s son played basketball at Chandler-Gilbert.
Both coaches said they are committed to building programs that will stand the test of time.
“I’m not here for one year,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to seeing my freshmen graduate.”
Crump said it’s understandable his players might be more than a wee bit leery of playing for their third coach in three seasons.
“I know the kids are concerned and I don’t blame them,” he said. “I’ve got my work cut out. Hopefully I can change the culture, raise the level of expectations. I have to let them know I’m going to be there and that I genuinely care about their well-being.”
The Spartans went 5-21 last season after going 13-13 in 2013-14 and 18-7 in 2012-13.
Basketball, Jackson said, is “another part of life, and it applies to life because you get out of it what you put into it. You have to be tough enough to stick through the rough times.”
Crump wants the Cougars, who missed the state tournament last season despite going 17-9, to play with the same passion as his club teams.
“My goal is to reach that level of intensity,” he said. “You do that by changing the culture and raising the level of expectations, by getting them to believe in themselves and the system.”
Both coaches are getting to know their teams this summer through open-gym workouts and a limited game schedule. Once official practice begins in November, the real work begins.
“I’m not looking for respectability, I’m looking for a championship,” Crump said. “If the kids buy in, we’ll be very successful.”
Jackson is confident Vista Grande also will be a team on the rise, “if we have the right attitude and are willing to make the sacrifices (to achieve) one common goal.”