Lawrence North’s Jack Keefer Eclipses 700 Wins
Writer / Matt Roberts
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
In the hundred-plus year history of Indiana high school basketball, only five coaches have won as many as 750 games. One of them is Lawrence North’s Jack Keefer, who entered this season with 760 career wins. Dead ahead is the all-time leader, Loogootee’s Jack Butcher at 806.
Coach Keefer eclipsed 700 wins for Lawrence North in the first game of this season, an 87-49 victory over Park Tudor. But in a career that includes four state championships, including three in a row from 2004-2006, it’s probably not close to the top highlight.
Keefer declines to name a favorite team or player, but admits that one team was very special.
“The 2006 team was probably the best, as far as overall talent and depth,” he says. “They won 45 or 50 games in a row.”
That team included two future NBA first-round draft choices in Greg Oden and Mike Conley.
“One time Oden was hurt,” Keefer says. “We were playing the third-ranked team in the state, and I was nervous as heck. Conley walks up to me and asked what was wrong. I said, ‘Oden’s hurt and we’re liable to get beat here.’ He just said, ‘Coach, we’re going to win. Just relax.’
“He only averaged 12 or 13 points a game, but he went out and scored 38. Without Oden, he just decided he better do more.”
Over five decades, Keefer has seen a lot of changes in the game and the athletes he coaches.
“There’s a big difference in kids today,” Keefer says. “I started coaching in a small school with 600 kids. The gym was packed every night, and all they talked about all week was the next ball game. Now, we’ve got 2,500 students here and probably 1,500 don’t even know we have a game that night.
“In those days you only played 18 games a year, maybe more if you won the sectional. But now they play 64 games in the summer, play some fall and spring ball. I really think it wears some of them out.”
Despite coaching for 45 years, Keefer has no immediate plans to retire. He may end up as the all-time leader sometime around 2020, but that’s not what keeps him on the job.
“My wife’s not ready to retire and if you just stay home you get bored,” he says. “It’s a hard job. You run into kids that aren’t thinking straight, that want more playing time. You’re dealing with a lot of stuff. It’s not worth it just to get a record that nobody cares about.
“(Duke Coach) Mike Krzyzewski told me, ‘If you think you want to retire go one more year, and then you’ll know you want to retire.’ So that’s what I’m doing. But I still enjoy Indianapolis, and I still like the kids at this age.”