BLHS adds new baseball, soccer coaches
As far as coaching changes go — much less during a summer in which three coaches needed replacing — Basehor-Linwood’s transition may not have possibly been smoother.
This month, ink dried on contracts for a new baseball coach, Jeff Vestal, and a coach in Erik Jones who will oversee both the boys and girls soccer programs at BLHS. They replace three coaches — Brian Lohafer, Austin Knipp and Derek Mazeitis — who stepped down because of either family reasons or professional opportunities, all of which lacking in controversy.
“All these guys left knowing what was best for the program and they want to see the program thrive,” BLHS athletic director Joe Keeler said.
Jones originally applied for and was hired as the physical education teacher at Glenwood Ridge and Linwood Elementary Schools. But with Knipp and Mazeitis leaving, another item of Jones’ resume stood out: four years as assistant coach for the St. Thomas Aquinas boys and girls soccer teams, perennially among the state’s top programs.
The Saints won 5A girls state titles all four years and one boys state title during Jones’ tenure as an assistant. Meanwhile, the Aquinas boys team garnered national recognition and counts multiple Major League Soccer players as alumni.
Jones taking the reigns of both BLHS programs will be a first for the school in years and gives Jones a shot at being the head guy.
“This gives him the opportunity to build his own program and establish a foundation,” Keeler said. “He’s really, really excited about the opportunity to run his own program.”
Jones said he plans to introduce youth camps next summer and added that his position as an elementary physical education teacher should also help establish relationships with families and potential future BLHS soccer players.
“One thing I liked about Basehor-Linwood was how the community supports their schools and their athletic program,” Jones said. “We need to get out and be involved in the community.”
Jones will take little time in getting to work, as a weeklong boys soccer camp begins July 8. He said he expects to spend time implementing the Bobcats’ defensive approach as he aims for the team to allow fewer goals in 2013. Besides that, the short time he has with the boys will be spent evaluating talent and figuring how he will coach to his athletes’ strengths. A girls soccer camp will follow during the week of July 15-19.
As a player, Jones was part of a 6A state championship team at Olathe East during his junior season and went on to play at Baker University, earning multiple NAIA All-America honors.
Vestal comes to BLHS after four years as Piper’s head baseball coach and seven years as an assistant on a Bishop Ward team that won six straight 4A state titles. Vestal, a youth league coach of 10 years and Wyandotte High alum, has had ample opportunity to observe the Bobcats’ program through years playing in the Kaw Valley League.
Lohafer, who will continue to serve as an assistant coach for the BLHS football team, didn’t surprise Keeler with his resignation after four seasons. Lohafer had intended to serve on an interim basis and told Keeler after the 2013 regional tournament that it was time.
So when the job opened, Vestal applied and recommendation phone calls arrived in Keeler’s office.
Vestal said the idea of building a winning program attracted him to BLHS, as does the prospect of what it will take to accomplish the task.
“I think it starts with summer ball,” Vestal said. “I don’t think many youth teams are associated with the program itself and I’d like to get it started.”
Vestal was further driven by what he’s seen the BLHS football and basketball programs achieve in that avenue and said he wanted to soon have players as young as 10 attend practices at some point and to develop youth teams on which the BLHS program’s philosophy is also implemented.
Assistant coaches Billy Jones and Brandon Dye will remain on the team and Vestal will bring pitching coach Brian Woods with him from Piper. Dylan McCombs, a recent Rockhurst University graduate, will round out the BLHS coaching staff.
Vestal also plans to introduce a youth summer camp next year.