HARBOR SPRINGS — Jason Roussin might be in his first year as head coach for the Harbor Light boys basketball team, but he’s not exactly a stranger.
Roussin, 27, graduated from the school in 2003 and has worked in assisting roles with the team for the past six.
The young coach takes over for Jeff Jakeway, his former coach and mentor, who set the bar high for the Harbor Light program and is taking some time away from basketball.
“Jeff was tremendously committed to the program for 13 years,” wrote Clark Hewitt, Harbor Light athletic director, in an email on the former coach. “The players that played for him loved and respected him. Jeff had high expectations and demanded that the boys played with enormous heart and determination helping his players to realize who they are and who they represented.”
Jakeway amassed a 149-95 record since 2001 when he took over the program, picking up conference, district and regional titles in 2004, reaching the regional semi-finals in 2009 and the regional final in 2010.
Hewitt, who coached Jakeway, said he was a “role model” for the athletes and families surrounding the program, adding that they “greatly benefitted and were blessed because of him being in their lives.”
Hewitt says he feels confident the new coach has the familiarity and experience for the job, though.
Veteran Harbor Light coach Pat Collins, the school’s head soccer coach, will also continue his supporting role this season.
Roussin says while he is happy to have the opportunity to lead Harbor Light, even if it is “bittersweet” in his former coach’s absence.
But, despite its past successes Harbor Light is in full rebuilding mode on the basketball court.
The Swordsmen struggled last season, finishing 7-15, the school’s worst record in a decade. The 10-player varsity team will also be young, with just senior forward Ethan Bump and senior guard Skylar Morgan.
The team will be rebuilding this year with only two seniors, though it still expects to be competitive in the Northern Lakes Conference.
“There is a lot more to it than you realize being head coach, but it is fun and we’ve all accepted it. Now (the players and I) are learning together,” Roussin said.
The new coach is trying to hammer down the basics with his team early.
“Those pre-Christmas games, we will still be pretty basic when it comes to plays on offense and defense,” he says. “...I really do hope to get out and run a little bit more. We haven’t been able to do that the last couple years.”
Most teams in the conference run zones as staples, and Harbor Light aspires to run more man to man coverage as the season progresses. He says he won’t mind shifting to a guard heavy lineup to “get out and run more this year,” something the team has lacked last season because of position holes.
Regardless, Roussin is confident his team will make strides this season.
“We want to play team basketball and get better day by day, to roll with whatever is the outcome,” he said.
Harbor Light opens its season Dec. 4 at home against Detour.