Kooper Glick remembered his days in middle school, when the Columbus North High School boys basketball team was struggling.
Then Jason Speer became the head coach in 2008.
“Once he got there,” Glick said of Speer, “we were winning 20 games. It was truly incredible.”
Speer’s seven-season run at North ended on Tuesday when he submitted his resignation as basketball coach, shocking his players, the school and the community.
He informed North Athletic Director Jeff Hester of his decision and issued the following statement:
“Resigning as head boys’ basketball coach at Columbus North has been a very difficult decision. I feel that it is time to step out of the way. The current and past players and parents, the assistant coaches and their families, as well as my wife (Julie), son (Rex) and family are what made this decision difficult because I have been blessed with their greatness.
“My motivation and definition of success has changed after 20 years of coaching basketball. I am looking forward and knowing that I have left the basketball program better than I found it seven years ago.”
North was 24-61 in the four seasons before Speer’s arrival. The team went 9-12 his first season then put together six consecutive winning seasons.
He was 115-48 overall, and his best season was 2012-13 when the Bull Dogs went 23-2 and won a sectional championship.
This past season’s team was ranked among the top teams in the state before star senior power forward Josh Speidel had a serious auto accident on Feb. 1. Speidel suffered severe head trauma and remains hospitalized as he attempts to fight back from those injuries.
“It’s been an emotional year,” Hester said. “I’m sad. … (Speer) is one of my best friends. I hate seeing him leave.
“He’s done an outstanding job over the last seven years. He laid out a plan for the program, and seven years later you can say his plan worked.”
Hester said he did know Speer, a social studies and assistant athletics director, was considering the move.
“We had talked,” Hester said. “You could say the decision was weighing heavy on his heart. But it was 100 percent his decision.”
Reached at home, Speer said he didn’t want to comment other than what he put in the release.
Asked about his best moment coaching the program, Speer said, “Unquestionably the relationship that I had with the past and current players.”
He was asked about North’s sectional title in the 2012-13 season and all the other winning seasons.
“That was the easy part given the talent,” he said.
The news stunned Columbus East coach Brent Chitty.
“I am kind of speechless,” he said. “I consider Jason and Julie good friends. When I got the job at Columbus East, Jason was one of the first people to contact me. He talked to me about developing basketball in Columbus.”
Chitty said he knew that Speer was more than just a good coach. He said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. used to talk about how controversy and adversity defined men.
“The way Jason held his team together and supported Josh (Speidel) and his family, it tells you about his high quality of character,” Chitty said.
North senior Kooper Glick said he got attached to his head coach through the years, but going through the Speidel tragedy has brought them even closer.
“We will be attached forever,” Glick said. “It more than touched all of us on the team. Playing for him was a true blessing. He was a great communicator.”
Hester said North will act quickly in its search for a new boys varsity basketball coach. “I’ve already started looking, making connections,” he said. “We have to put feelers out there.”
As a head coach, Speer loved to give his players the freedom to push the pace and run the floor.
“His teams were well-prepared, and they played hard,” Chitty said. “I think people appreciated the way both our teams played.”
Glick said Speer always got players to buy into his system.
“He definitely loved for us to run,” Glick said. “But if we couldn’t, he would have set plays ready, and he had some of the best set plays. He definitely knew what he was talking about.”
It was all because of a lot of hard work.
“He put a lot of time into this,” Hester said. “He helped bring it out of the ashes and put new life into the program.”
Jason Speer’s season as Columbus North’s head varsity basketball coach