Former NBA 1st-round draft pick switches to coaching college basketball

luke-jacksonA chance meeting in the parking lot of a south Eugene grocery store four weeks ago turned into the job Luke Jackson had been preparing for the last nine years.

Jackson, the former Oregon basketball star, NBA player and state champion from Creswell, was formally introduced as the new men’s basketball coach at Northwest Christian University during a Wednesday news conference.

With his parents, wife and 2-year-old son in attendance, Jackson said a back injury during his first season as a professional with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2004 was when he began to seriously consider a coaching career.

“I’ve had a basketball career and I know that doesn’t always translate into coaching, and I’m not naive to that fact,” Jackson said. “But as a player when I was 22 years old, having two herniated discs and thinking I was going to have to walk away from the game, I started thinking about coaching and started thinking about what would I do. I started going to coaching meetings and writing down the things that I liked and the things that I didn’t like.”

Jackson was introduced by NCU athletic director Corey Anderson, who also happens to be the coach Jackson is replacing.

Anderson resigned Sunday after coaching for four seasons and with a 42-79 record.

Anderson and Jackson knew each other well from their days in the Sky-Em League — Jackson as a player at Creswell High School and Anderson as a coach at Marist — so when they bumped into each other in an Albertson’s parking lot in January, the two naturally got to talking basketball.

Anderson, tired of wearing two hats, wanted out of coaching. Jackson, officially retired from pro ball after playing one last season in Israel in 2011, wanted in.

“The more we talked, the more we continued to talk,” Anderson said. “And then we talked some more, and it began getting more and more clear.”

Jackson’s only coaching experience has come from helping at camps. He said hiring an experienced staff is at the top of his immediate to-do list.

“I’ve never done anything in my life halfway,” Jackson, 31, said. “I’m taking it very seriously like I would anything else.”

Jackson was an all-American as an Oregon senior in 2004 and was drafted 10th overall by Cleveland. He spent four seasons in the NBA with four teams and also played in the NBA D-League and at multiple spots overseas.

luke-jackson-2During his time in the NBA, Jackson played for Cleveland Cavaliers, LA Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat.

He averaged career high 5.6 ppg for the Heat in 2007-08, and holds career averages of 3.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 9.9 mpg in 73 NBA games, 3 of which he started.

“I feel like my background, my basketball journey and the mentors that I’ve had over the years are really going to serve the team well,” Jackson said. “It’s really not about me here, it’s about the guys and it’s about me being able to help them get better, and I feel like I’m well suited to do that.”

Jackson met his players on Tuesday and at least eight were on hand Wednesday for his news conference – as were Oregon senior forward E.J. Singler and Josh Jamieson, the Ducks director of operations who was a graduate assistant at Oregon during Jackson’s playing days.

And what days those were. Jackson, a 6-foot-7 swingman, teamed with Luke Ridnour and Fred Jones to lead the Ducks to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight as a sophomore in 2002. The Ducks returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and in 2004, Jackson averaged 21.2 points and led Oregon to the semifinals of the NIT.

He finished with a career scoring average of 15.6 points and 1,970 points — second-most all-time at Oregon. He also ranks in the career top 10 in rebounds, assists, steals, three-pointers and free-throws made.

Still, Jackson wasn’t sure if his celebrity status in Eugene transcended to the NCU locker room.

“Obviously, it’s been a long time since I’ve played here,” Jackson said. “Most of these guys were probably 10-12 years old back then. I don’t expect that they’ve seen a lot of old highlights.”

He’d be surprised.

“I knew of him, but once I started hearing rumors of him coming to NCU I looked him up and quickly found out who he was,” said NCU guard Travis Pacos, a junior from Discovery Bay, Calif. “I definitely have a good idea now. I’m very excited. It’s a great thing for this program.”

Just as it seems to be for Jackson.

“It’s been an interesting process getting to this point in my life,” he said. “I’m shocked at how fast that it happened, but I’m very comfortable with it and I’m excited about it. I’m excited to be a part of NCU and everything that’s going on here.”


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