EATON — Eaton named John Tollefson from Sidney Lehman Catholic as their next boys’ basketball coach during a special board meeting on Wednesday, July 8.
At the age of 33, Tollefson only has three years of varsity experience, but he has been in the coaching game for far longer. He began at the age of 16, coaching 14-year-olds in AAU, and he just never stopped.
He was drawn to Eaton because he wanted to take on a role at a larger school that was building a program from the youth on up.
“I’ve always taken basketball as a seven day a week job and I offer year-round development stuff for not only the high school boys but for the youth players,” he said. “I’m kind of a basketball nut and I’m lucky to have a wife that supports it. Basketball is my passion and I love to teach the game. Honestly, the best way to have a successful program is to start with the young kids, get them excited, and teach them the fundamentals.”
He started a youth program during his time at Lehman Catholic where he coached kindergarten through sixth graders on Sunday’s in a league in Beavercreek. He also held practices for these teams on Saturday mornings. Tollefson does all of this because he is a firm believer that a strong youth program feeds and fuels success at the higher levels.
The young coach has amassed a 39-33 record at the varsity level, coaching at both Northridge and Lehman Catholic.
In his three years, he has won the first round playoff game every season. He also coached one year on the junior varsity squad at Vandalia before moving on to the Northridge position. The gig was his first introduction to high school hoops.
He comes from a coaching family, with both his father and grandfather having long coaching careers.
Ironically, Tollefson was cut from his freshman basketball team at Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati, which helped jumpstart his coaching career.
“I couldn’t just quit basketball. I needed a way to still be involved with it. I never wanted to play in college but I always wanted to be a coach,” he said. “It’s a horrible addiction for me but I love it. I love the constant networking with coaches, I love to read and learn about the game, I’ve been published in a small hoops magazine a few times.”
He runs his team at a lightning fast pace and says that his squads have traditionally put up very big offensive numbers.
“We play very, very fast in transition. I’m of the belief that the basketball court is not that long, so we can get a rebound and get a big jump on somebody,” he said. “There should be a level of excitement if you like to watch teams put up big numbers. We’ve always done that – so much so that it’s hard to slow those guys down because the kids usually buy into playing fast and scoring a lot of points.”
But overall, Tollefson is just excited to get into the gym with his new team and start building a winning program.
“I really look forward to getting going here with the boys. I think that we can not only have a successful season this year but we can lay the foundation to make Eaton a perennial winner,” he said. “I’m excited. My goal every year is to win a state championship. I know that sounds crazy but I think you have to aim high and have to make the kids proud of what they’re doing. They have to understand that it’s not about shots, stats, and stardom but about winning games.”
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH