Jack Jensen leaves behind legacy, memories
April 9, 2010
Filed under Archives
Guilford’s head golf coach, former men’s basketball coach, former track and field coach, and all-around legend Jack Jensen died Sunday, March 28, of a heart attack.Jensen returned from Camp Lejeune with his fourth-ranked men’s golf team earlier in the evening and suffered a fatal heart attack driving home later that night.
Jensen’s service was held on Thursday, April 1, in Ragan-Brown Field House on his own court, Jack Jensen Court, which was named after Jensen during Legacy Weekend in 2009.
Ragan-Brown was packed with well-wishers, current and former Guilford athletes, family, friends, as well as a sense of history. In the 45 years that he coached, 29 with basketball, 32 with golf, Jensen won four national championships, three in golf and one in basketball. But for Jensen, it was never about the championships.
“For Jack it was all about the relationships,” said Sports Information Director and Assistant Director of Athletics Dave Walters. “Jack loved finding kids and helping them succeed at the college level. He wanted them to succeed in life and on the court.”
“Jack loved the relationships with people,” concurred Dave Odom, assistant to Kent Chabotar and Guilford alumnus. “Too often coaches coach for themselves. Jack epitomized the opposite. Jack was a player’s coach.”
This year Jensen helped put five out of the seven members of the golf team on the fall student-athlete honor roll.
“Coach Jensen was more than just a coach,” said senior golfer and team captain Brian Creghan. “I consider him to be one of my best friends. I am lucky to have known Coach for four years and we had some great times together.”
Despite his humble nature, one cannot deny that Jensen won – a lot. His men’s golf teams reached the Division III national championship 15 times in the 16 years that they were eligible. His men’s basketball teams went 207-71 in the first 10 years he coached, with six 20-win seasons.
Jensen not only won championships, but he was also inducted into an array of halls of fame, including the North Carolina, NAIA, and Golf Coaches Association of America halls of fame.
Jensen’s famous 1973 men’s basketball team, led by future NBA players M.L. Carr ’73, Greg Jackson ’74, and World B. Free ’76, won the NAIA title over University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He also brought home an NAIA title in golf in 1989, followed by NCAA golf titles in 2002 and 2005.
“It was a beautiful thing,” said Free about the 1973 basketball title.
Free reminisced on that historic season. After losing their first game, Free said he saw Jensen crying over the loss as his fiercely competitive spirit showed through. Free called his mother, befuddled over his coach’s tears. She told him simply that he couldn’t let the team lose again and that they would have to win it all. Free took that to heart and helped lead that team to the Promised Land.
“Coach was a disciplinarian,” said Free. “Coming from Brooklyn, things were kind of loose, but Coach mentored me and got me on track. He was like a dad and friend. He was just what I needed.”
Jensen leaves behind a legacy unparalleled in Guilford history, not only with his championships and winning, but also with his humility and dedication. Jensen dedicated his life to helping the college as well as the student-athletes he mentored.
So humble was Jensen that he would not allow his wife Marsha to bring a number of trophies and medals with them when they moved. He only took memorabilia from the championships.
“You don’t often see a person working in one place for 45 years and achieve so much success in two fields,” said Walters. “Guilford meant very much to Jack.”
Though his trophies may cement his legacy as a great coach, Jensen will be remembered more for his love of people and his dedication to his craft. He will always be our coach.