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Five Questions/Quick Hitters: Jason Schmitz

09/28/2022, 10:00am CDT
By Chuck Thompson

This edition of Five Questions & Quick Hitters is another Coaches Edition, with Head Coach Jason Schmitz from St Scholastica in beautiful Duluth, Minnesota. Jason also coaches club basketball with Starks Elite/Minnesota Suns. Thanks for your time Jason!

 

1. When players come to campus for a visit, what is one thing you always want to make sure they see that is off-campus, but a big draw to Duluth?

Honestly, as long as it is a clear day out I don't have to offer too many suggestions! The drive into Duluth on I35 is truly  amazing as you come over the last little hill and see Lake Superior. For the families that aren't incredibly familiar with Duluth, I always suggest heading to Canal Park, Park Point or Enger Tower if they want a tremendous, panoramic view.

 

2. You've been at the helm at St Scholastica for roughly 2 years now. What do you think are going to be some of the keys in helping the program return to a stronger position in the MIAC?

More like 12 months! It has been an absolute whirlwind to say the least. With last year being the first year in the MIAC and having a team coming off a very tough, albeit short season in their last year in the UMAC, we really wanted to lay the foundation going forward. I was blessed to have a group that really wanted to work hard and get better each day. There was never a day of practice that felt like we were staring at a season with very few wins. It was an amazing feeling to get the programs first win in 718 days and first win against a MIAC opponent since 2019. As we go forward, we are really looking to find student-athletes and families that are willing to continue to grow that vibe and feeling. Ultimately, the biggest key for us is to simply "get old". We relied heavily on Sophomores last year and will do the same with a core group of first years this season. The best teams are those that get old and stay old, we simply need to be able to grow up together. 

 

3.I know you are very active in recruiting, what are some of the biggest things you look for in potential recruits that would transition well to what you want your style of play to be at St Scholastica?

Without sounding too coaching cliche, we want to play fast. We are planning to change some of our offensive and defensive concepts this year as we feel the roster is closer to fitting what we need. We want to play in as much space offensively as possible so being able to hit an open 3 as a perimeter player is all but a must for us. Defensively, we really want high motor players that we will teach what we want them to do defensively.

 

4. What got you into coaching, and what are some of the things you enjoy the most, and what are the toughest things to deal with as well?

I joke that I fell backwards into coaching collegiately and it is kind of true. I started as a high school assistant boys coach when I was in undergrad. Shortly after finishing my GA position to the athletic director at Worcester State I started teaching 7-12 social studies in a small town in North Dakota. Like any first year teacher, I was willing to take any extra duties to make an extra $1,000. The girls coach for Wilton-Wing, Lisa Jenkins, called me up as she needed a 5th and 6th grade coach, a 7th and 8th grade coach and I wound up doing the C team and serving as a varsity assistant as well. From there I eventually wound up being the head coach in Oakes, ND. After a couple of years there, I wound up taking a job as the head girls coach at Gila Ridge High School in Yuma, AZ. After spending a summer doing workouts and about 6 weeks of school, Rick Neumann at Umary called me up to inquire about interest in his assistant job. Neumann was one of my high school coaches so I've known him longer than I haven't at this point. It was a no brainer for me even to jump at the opportunity. I had the offer before boarding the plane back to Phoenix, accepted on the spot, drove back to Yuma and after about 3 hours of sleep resigned my teaching and coaching job. I moved back to Bismarck 4 days later. After 4 years as an assistant, I got my first head coaching job at Centenary College (alma mater of Robert Parish) in Shreveport, LA and spent 3 years there before coming to CSS last September. 

 

That's a very LONG winded answer to how I got here but ultimately the thing that keeps me here are the people. I'm incredibly relationship driven and enjoy being able to get to know the players and their families through the process. I enjoy being on the floor and going through struggles and triumphs as a unit. 

 

As for tough things, I don't think anything is too incredibly tough. I feel fortunate to be 1 of roughly 1200 head NCAA women's basketball coaches in the country. Sure, the losses stink and losing out on a recruit I've spent a lot of time trying to get here will always sting but I get to wake up, dress like a gym teacher and coach basketball for a living!

 

5. As a DIII coach you can also coach club basketball. You work with Starks Elite/Minnesota Suns. What are some of the things that got you into club coaching, and what are some of the benefits you see?

Once again, just one of those fell into situations. Dyami Starks reached out to me shortly after I got hired and invited me to a workout. After talking for about a week or so he asked if I'd be willing to coach the 17U squad. As you are well aware, we had a great summer. The benefits are incredibly vast both on and off the floor. From a basketball perspective, it is kind of a science lab. Every day we are trying to find new ways to present information and teach concepts. Its an odd premise as it is weird to just practice for teaching concepts without having to prepare for an opponent. It really challenged me to open my mind and work on simplifying things as much as possible. 

 

Quick Hitters:

1. Full-court press or half-court trap: Full court press

2. Favorite visiting gym to coach at:

MIAC: St. Bens

SCAC: Colorado College

NSIC: We played Pitt State in an MIAA/NSIC crossover on their elementary school day. 3,000 kids screaming "Let's go Pitt State" when the were #8 in the county. Best atmosphere I've ever been part of. 

 

3.Name of favorite play you run: Now you are asking for my secrets! Ask me in March after I figure out what works best this year!

4. Most underrated skill in basketball players: playing with 2 feet under them

5. Favorite Netflix series: Ozark

6.Favorite sports movie: Bull Durham

7.Favorite place to eat in Canal Park: Vitta Pizza - but you have to head to Lincoln Park and hit up Corktown, OMC and Duluth Grill

8.Favorite Holiday: October 15 - hoops holiday

9.Biggest phobia: Not a huge fan of cockroaches/poisonous spiders after 3 years in the south. Fortunately not a huge issue here

10.Up 3 late in the game, do you foul or play D straight-up: Straight up

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