Jessee picked as next men’s basketball coach


Nick Gainey

Tom Jessee was named head coach of the Augustana men’s basketball team on April 16 after serving 28 years as an assistant coach. 
Jessee replaces Steve Schafer,     who resigned April 15 after one year as head coach to pursue a private business opportunity.
Jessee, a 1991 graduate of Augustana, began his lengthy tenure in 1993 as an assistant under his former college coach, Steve Yount. He remained on the staff when the legendary Grey Giovanine became head coach in 1999, and he was retained again when Schafer took over in the spring of 2020.
With nearly 30 years under his belt serving under three successful coaches, Jessee has a lot of skills and experience to bring to the job.
“All three were super, super great communicators that really had the ability to connect with everybody that they came in contact with,” Jessee said of his predecessors. “That is probably the number one key, your ability to communicate not only with your current players but painting the picture for future prospects.”
Unlike the previous spring’s coaching search, Jessee was quickly promoted, with no national search being conducted.
“I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. [Wes] Brooks… and offered my opinion of the situation and my recommendation that we move forward with promoting Coach Jessee to the head men’s basketball coach,” Mike Zapolski, athletic director, said. 
“The next day, we had made arrangements for Coach Jessee to have the opportunity to meet with President Bahls and Brooks, and got the approval to move forward.”
The current players and recruits felt mixed emotions. They were excited to build off of Schafer’s successful first year, which resulted in a 7-5 record and an appearance in the conference semifinals.
“When I heard the news about Coach Schafer leaving, I was disappointed because I really liked him as a coach and thought we were going in the right direction after his first year,” Carter Duwa, sophomore guard, said. 
But the players are huge fans of Jessee, and believe his promotion is well-deserved.
“When I found out Coach Jessee got the job I was super excited because he has been with the program for almost 30 years and he knows what it takes to be successful,” Duwa said.
Jessee knows that Augustana basketball has high standards, and he aims to return to those heights. He sees the program claiming multiple conference titles and competing on the national stage during his tenure.
“I feel an immense duty, not pressure, but a duty to continue moving this program forward as it’s been in the past,” Jessee said. “I’ve seen the blueprint, and I’m so excited to be in that other seat and try to lead.”
Jessee’s tenure as head coach begins as COVID-19 rages on, but he is most excited about having fans returning to the Carver Center to cheer on the Vikings.
“I’m so excited to get people, students particularly, back into Carver Center next fall and winter,” Jessee said. “One advantage is to have an active student body at our games, on the front row, making it hard for those opposing teams coming in here and trying to do what they’re supposed to do.”
With a young but experienced core returning and Jessee at the helm, Augustana men’s basketball looks to make noise in the Carver Center, the CCIW, and the nation.