ILWACO - In the early 1990s, when Paul Jarrett starred for the Fishermen basketball team, Aase Gymnasium was packed to standing room only for most home games and the recently-hired 33-year-old head hoops coach wants to return the program to that popularity.
"The first thing I want to do is change the youth program by bringing it back to the Peninsula so that more kids can play," Jarrett says. "I want to be involved with open gym as a player and a coach and I want to have summer camps for kids and clinics for all of the coaches who will work with the youth program."
Jarrett, who assisted Ryan Bjornsgard at Naselle for five years from 1999 through 2004 is interested in getting the numbers up for the boys' basketball program. "You can't compete if you don't have enough kids turning out," he states matter-of-factly. Last season the Fishermen were down to as few as 14 players at times.
Jarrett plans on tailoring his offense and defense to the talent available. "We're going to run (fast break), I can tell you that. We will use a motion offense, but still keep our post players inside," he says. Another positive move Jarrett believes in is giving each player a legitimate shot at playing time. "If you work hard and earn a position you will play," he explains.
Defensively Jarrett's Fishermen teams will "change things up" and use a variety of half and full-court presses and play some man-to-man and some 2-3, 3-2, and matchup zone defenses in the half court depending upon the ability of his players.
Jarrett, who was born and raised in Long Beach, knows about basketball, having played professionally in New Zealand and having earned four college letter awards. Despite all the big-time hoops in Paul's career his most memorable game came in 1990 at the 1A state finals. The Fishermen had gone 26-0 and faced an undefeated Grandview team for all the marbles. Jarrett picked up two ticky-tack fouls early and had to sit most of the first half. He sparked a heroic surge that brought the Fishermen close, but they eventually fell 79-68 and finished second.
"I wish we would have won that game," the new coach laments. "It was such a thrill to play with guys I had grown up with and have a community root for us where I knew just about everybody in the stands." Jarrett was twice honored by the Longview Daily News as player of the year as he averaged over 22 points per game over his last 54 high school games. He was named an All-American at Southern Idaho Junior College his freshman season and lettered twice at New Mexico State and played in Madison Square Garden for the NIT title before the team got into trouble with NCAA violations. He ended his collegiate career at San Diego State.
"I played professionally in New Zealand and the next year could have gone back there or play in Finland. There was a Continental Basketball Association team in Boise, Idaho and I knew the coach so there were a lot of opportunities to continue as a pro," Jarrett relates.
"One morning I woke up with back pain and the doctors eventually said I was done playing professionally at age 24," Jarrett says. He had a slipped disk that caused nerve damage in his lower back and left leg that still hampers him even after surgery.
"I returned home to the beach and started a pest control business, but I'm just not built to crawl under houses," the six-foot, eight-inch Jarrett jokes. He put his education to use as a counselor at the Naselle Youth Camp beginning in 1999 and is still employed there. "I love my job. I get paid to talk to kids," he says.
Jarrett praises his high school coach, Joe Williams for having the most positive influence on his life. "Joe took me to college games and he would open the gym for me at all hours and he did countless other good things for me."
His wife Tara has also been "a blessing" according to Jarrett. "She gives me confidence and she is just amazing," he says. He also got the OK from his eight year old son and six year old daughter before signing on as head coach. "In high school I told people I'd be head coach at Ilwaco some day. I know this will be a huge commitment and there are a lot of expectations for the program, but the thrill of the game will be enough to offset anything negative that can come along," he notes.
In spite of his injured back and leg Jarrett still enjoys playing basketball at open gym, where a decade ago he met his newly-hired assistant coach, Kip Meinhardt. "Basketball has been my salvation," Jarrett says with conviction. "Whenever something isn't going well I just shoot hoops for awhile and then I'm all right."
Jarrett wants to encourage the "older guys" in the area to start attending open gym as well. "Having the veteran players pass on the game to the high school kids is a great way to get in shape and be a good influence," Paul says. It is also a great way for the new Ilwaco coach to show the community that he will be a slam dunk for the job.
The Jarrett-led Fishermen will be in action July 7, 8, and 9 at Aase Gymnasium in the 16-team annual Battle at the Beach varsity tournament, although Jarrett does not know as of yet exact times for when Ilwaco will compete.