(Bloomington Jefferson won a state championship in 1982 when the tournament was held at the St. Paul Civic Center. File photo: Don Black, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
At halftime of the Bloomington Jefferson boys’ basketball game on Saturday, a ceremony will be held to honor all of the head coaches who have led the program since the school opened 50 seasons ago.
Both of them.
Jack Evens, who coached from 1970 to 1996, and his son, Jeff, are the only ones to lead the team since the Jaguars began playing at what was then the growing suburb's third post-World War II high school.
“We need to recognize what these two guys have done.’’ said Mike Carr, who played for both men in the early 1990s. “This is a pretty special thing, to have only two coaches, especially in today’s climate’’ in which turnover is far more commonplace.
Special aptly describes a 13-year stretch of Minnesota high school basketball dominance starting in 1975, when baby blue-and-white-clad Jefferson teams reached the state tournament seven times and came away with four Class AA titles.
The first was in 1976, when big man and future NBA player Steve Lingenfelter led the Jaguars past Hibbing and its big man and future NBA star, Kevin McHale. The last in 1987 capped a 26-0 season led by future Gopher and NBA guard Kevin Lynch.
Six more state tournament appearances followed, including a team with future Minnesota Timberwolves player Cole Aldrich, with the last in 2009.
After the Jaguars' game against St. Paul Harding on Saturday afternoon, the Evens’ efforts will be celebrated in "The Jefferson Basketball Documentary,'' an hour-long video making its premiere in a viewing party starting at 4:30 p.m. at the North Star Tavern in Bloomington. Nearly 100 interviews were conducted, including with former players, coaches and even rival coaches and players.
Jefferson opened in 1970, a product of rapid suburbanization that had given rise to Bloomington High School (later renamed Lincoln) in 1957 and Bloomington Kennedy in 1965. However, population shifts forced the closure of Lincoln in 1982, resulting in a surge of students to Jefferson, on the city’s west side.
The theme running through the preview is that throughout the half century, Jack and Jeff Evens brought respect to a program known for smart, disciplined play. Carr lauded them for teaching life skills and lessons, including how to accept adversity, that the program’s big names and small ones have taken far beyond what they did on the court.
“They’re humble and don’t like media attention,’’ said Carr, who indicated there may be a surprise at the halftime ceremony.
The idea for recognizing the 50th anniversary started in 2017 with Jimmy Williams, a longtime Jefferson assistant coach, and Matt Vollum, a former Jaguar player and later a head coach at Bloomington Kennedy and Eagan who is now professional photographer.
Their passion eventually connected them Carr and Lynch, whose connections at Fox Sports helped with media production needs. “It was just four guys who don’t really know what we’re doing,’’ Carr said jokingly.
As the idea for recognizing the Evens tandem coalesced, the group started doing interviews of former players. Word-of-mouth helped reach others as more eras and teams were recalled.
“Then it turned into we were interviewing rival coaches,’’ Carr said. This week was spent whittling down countless hours of material, including video clips, into the best 60 minutes of story-telling about a program and coaches they all are passionate about.
“It just morphed into all these interviews,’’ he said. “It’s just been a really neat project.’’