The start of the long gold line

Remembering Jasper’s first season

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Contributed by Lois Jasper

Members of Jasper’s first team play a basketball game in 1973. Their uniforms consisted of cutoff jeans and reversible t-shirts with numbers taped on.

Jeff Jasper walked into athletic director Joe Talamo’s office and was offered the position of head coach of the girls basketball team in 1973. Talamo said that if Jasper performed well as head coach of the girls team, he would be the head coach of the boys junior varsity team.

“I said ‘JV boys coach? Are you kidding me?’” Jasper said.

At the time, he was thrilled with the opportunity.

The Pascack Valley girls basketball team has only seen one head coach — Jeff Jasper. Jasper helped start the program and has led it to become one of the most prestigious in the state.

Before Jasper began the team, there was no opportunity for girls at Valley to play sports competitively.

The first time he walked into the gym to coach, there were 70 girls who had never played.

“It was like teaching ball to aliens,” Jasper said.

The first team’s uniforms consisted of cut-off jeans, reversible t-shirts, and numbers made out of adhesive tape.

That first season, PV received numerous technicals due to the taped on numbers that slipped off the girls’ jerseys throughout the game.

The team struggled in its first season, with a record of 2-14, but the team itself was defined by much more than its record — Jasper now has 1000 total wins and counting.

His first year coaching, Jasper’s wife, Lois Jasper, was the assistant coach.

“It was so exciting to see women athletes with that kind of drive and that kind of fight. I never thought he would someday get 1,000 wins,” Lois said. “They had two wins, and I thought it was a great story.”

According to Jasper himself, he was very tough on his players, and the mindset and work ethic that he instilled has stuck with them.

“It was an experience that at the time was fulfilling a dream that stayed with me my whole life,” recalled Kathy Barton, who was on the first team and was a 1975 PV graduate.

Jasper made sure, and still makes sure, to have an impact on those he coaches beyond the court. He uses coaching as a “vehicle to teach important life skills.”

“Often I will say to the girls, ‘Take a look up at the stands. Are there any football players in them?’ And they come to me game after game and say no, that they did not see any,” Jasper said. “And these girls go to every one of their football games when they do not come to support them at theirs? Why in the heck would you do that?”

From the beginning, Jasper was about making sure the girls felt empowered to be athletes while playing, which in the first year he coached, was something he had not done before.

“Our mantra was ‘not girls, athletes,’” Jasper said.

The first team also helped lead to the extremely successful program today, which is consistently winning titles and championships.

“It is a long gold line,” said Jasper. “Everything you see here today, it all started with that group.”

Jasper started coaching making about a third of what the head coach for the boys basketball team was making, and Jasper was coaching all three levels.

Since he was a male coaching females, he was not allowed to sue the Board of Education directly, so his counterpart at Valley’s sister school Pascack Hills, Barbara DeCaro, did.

DeCaro sued the Board of Ed. based on Title IX which declares that “no person shall be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance based on sex.”

This case went to federal court and DeCaro and Jasper won.

Even though Jasper and the team won the court case, they still suffered from pushback.

In the 1970s, he had long hair and wore platform shoes and bell-bottom pants. He was not what Talamo had in his mind to be coach, Jasper said.

“After watching a practice of ours, when the girls are smashing into each other, heads flying and all, he told me after that ‘this is what it is supposed to look like,’” Jasper said.

Jasper did not know Talamo was watching the practice. Talamo told him he came to watch the practice because a complaint was called in about Jasper for “making the girls work too hard and be so physical.”

Jasper always says that the girls on his first team “were truly pioneers.”

Eventually, Jasper was offered a position as a boys basketball coach. Jasper said he asked himself why he would take a step backwards.

In the beginning, Jasper said he “lost credibility” for being a girls’ coach.

“If anything has changed, it is that who I am and who we have come to be is basketball, not girls basketball,” Jasper said. “If you say Pascack Valley people will recognize girls basketball and they will know Jeff Jasper.”