The Lakeridge High School girls basketball program didn't have to look far to find its new head coach — just across the gym in fact.
Jason Brown, who's assisted boys head coach Fred Gold for the past two seasons and made himself a regular presence in the Lakeridge gym, was hired two weeks ago to lead the Pacers girls program. He succeeds Jill Noe, who led the program from the 2014-15 season through the end of the 2016-17 campaign.
"I'm very excited," said Brown, 45 and a teacher in Lakeridge's Academic Sport Center. "Principal Jennifer Schiele said 'Why aren't you interested in the head coaching job?' … We talked about it and she was right. After talking with my family about it, I said 'It's time.'"
While Brown has worked at Lakeridge for just two years, he has a long coaching history and longer roots to the Pacers community, those thanks to his wife Amy. Amy and all four of her siblings graduated from Lakeridge, so when Brown got the chance to move west to Oregon and join Gold in the gym, Amy and her family were thrilled with the chance to come home.
"When Fred got the (boys head coaching job), he said 'You've got to come back,'" Brown recalled. "When I told my wife, she said 'Let's go.'"
Brown grew up in Michigan and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University. After graduation, Brown and a college friend drove west, stopped at locales in several states and eventually decided that Oregon was the place to stay.
He initially worked in sales — he met Gold while he was here, playing basketball at The Hoop in Beaverton — then moved to San Antonio and spent nine years as a UPS driver, all the while coaching AAU basketball, first as an assistant and later as coach of his own team.
While he'd moved past his initial professional goal of becoming a lawyer, Brown still wasn't quite ready to follow in his family's footsteps as teachers.
"My dad, three uncles and two aunts — there's a long line of educators in my family, but I thought I was better than that," Brown said. "Eventually, though, I decided that working with kids and teaching basketball was what I should do — it was time to stop being a knucklehead and do it."
Following that decision, Brown got his teaching certification, worked the next five years teaching special education to sixth-graders in San Antonio and, as it turns out, set the table for his return to Oregon.
Since his hiring, Brown has been a man in motion almost every day, first taking the Lakeridge girls team to a five-day team camp at Western Oregon University, then fulfilling a previous commitment and helping Gold with the boys team through their own summer session.
The fact that he's already gotten to meet and work with his new girls team was the best thing he could have asked for in his new position.
"We had some great parents who set up summer camp for them so I had five days with them at Western Oregon," Brown said. "It really gave us a running start."
The Pacers will need whatever advantages they can get after going 0-16 in Three Rivers League play and 1-23 overall in 2016-17. Indeed, Lakeridge has gone 0-48 in the last three TRL seasons and just 7-62 overall in that three-year span.
None of that, however, has deterred Brown's optimism for the coming season.
"We've got a lot of talent, they work hard and they want to learn," he said. "We're not big or physically imposing, but we're going to work hard and push the ball every game and be competitive. There's a winner every game — why not us?"
Brown hopes to use his presence in the school — Noe worked at Nike — to boost the program's numbers and believes that his familiarity will also work in his favor.
"In any sport, you always want numbers. There's always girls around who maybe had a bad experience before and just need a little push (to come back)," he said. "And all the girls have seen me here all the time and they know I'll be here."