Jeff Jasper makes history, wins 1,000th career game at Pascack Valley by Chris Iseman of The Record

HILLSDALE — The memories flooded Jeff Jasper’s mind throughout the day. With them came emotions, and with the emotions came tears.

He couldn’t fight them. Not during his 5 a.m. spin class. Not on the way to get his morning coffee or on the way to Pascack Valley High School, where this iconic journey began back in 1971.

Jasper knew the milestone he was potentially hours away from accomplishing was special. But it was the memories and the dozens of messages he received in the prior days that brought the tears.

“I just saw the faces of all these kids who have just become such great people and they’ve so enriched my life,” Jasper said. “That’s the emotion of this.”

Shortly before 4 p.m. he walked into the gym at Pascack Valley and saw so many of those faces in the stands. They watched Jasper’s Indians beat Northern Highlands, 73-25, to give the legendary coach his 1,000th victory on Thursday.

Jasper, in his 45th year on the sideline, is the first girls basketball coach in New Jersey to reach that milestone. He’s just the second basketball coach in state history to reach the 1,000-win mark, joining former St. Anthony boys basketball coach Bob Hurley.

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The celebration began in the final minutes of the game.

Fans who packed the gym began to put on green t-shirts with “1,000” written across the front. The zeroes on the shirts were yellow smiley faces, a tribute to the pin Jasper wears each day to honor Joe Poli, the late Pascack Valley principal and his close friend.

Following Pascack Valley’s 73-25 girls basketball win over Northern Highlands on Jan. 11, 2018, Indians coach Jeff Jasper addresses the crowd following his 1,000th career victory. Pascack Valley Principal Tom DeMaio provides the introduction. Greg Tartaglia/

In a post-game address to the crowd, Jasper thanked his three families: His wife Lois and their sons, Justin, Geremy and Gavin, his Pascack Valley family, and the “long gold line,” the players who have come through this program through the decades.

Jasper choked up during the speech, particularly at the end when he thanked his late parents, Walt and Gussie.

“To be the only coach this school’s ever had on this and taking it from that truly pathetic beginning to the heights at it’s now — I love the way we play,” Jasper said. “We play really good basketball. Unselfish, good discipline, they share the ball, they play defense, they block out, they’re fundamentally sound. That’s been the mantra from me from the beginning.”

And the Indians played good basketball again on Thursday.

They trailed early before junior guard Brianna Smith caught fire from the perimeter and Pascack Valley’s defense shut down the Highlanders on the way to another victory.

The 10th of the Indians’ season and the 1,000th of Jasper’s career.

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Senior guard Kelly Petro said that there were some more nerves for this game than usual.

She saw just how many people would be there when she walked to the trainer’s room right after school and saw the line to get into the gym went out the door.

“When I’m playing the game, yeah I was kind of in-tune to how many people were here but I didn’t get to see who exactly was here,” Petro said. “But holding that poster when Jasper was talking and just seeing how many people stayed to listen — It’s so much more than just a game of basketball.”

Senior guard Brianna Wong led the team into the gym for the game. She immediately was struck by the crowd.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s so many people here,” Wong said.

All those people wouldn’t miss this.

They came to support Jasper, the only girls basketball coach Pascack Valley has ever had.

Through the years, the wins or losses were secondary. For Jasper, it has always come back to the people.

For 45 years and 1,000 victories.

“He calls it the long gold line,” senior guard Toriana Tabasco said. “You saw all the people who came back just for this game, just to be here in this moment with him. When we play, we carry a part of that with us. And when we leave, we still have a part of that with us too.”