“I loved every minute of it”: Jack Keefer retires after 46 years as Lawrence North varsity basketball coach 


According to Jack Keefer, he’s never worked a day in his life despite being Lawrence North High School’s boys basketball head coach since 1976. 

The 78-year-old coach announced his retirement April 14. Students, staff, administrators and City of Lawrence officials, including Mayor Steve Collier, gathered at the school April 15 to honor Keefer for a remarkable coaching career that includes four IHSAA state championships.

“I’ve got a lot of players behind me who made me a good coach,” Keefer said during the presentation. “They work so hard. They work harder than any of us have probably worked at anything. We play at things, but we wouldn’t play like these guys play. It’s amazing what kids can do when they put their minds to it.  I’ve done it here for 46 years and I haven’t gone to work one day.

“I just come and this is a gym, this is our house. I loved every minute of it.”

Keefer has been at Lawrence North since 1976 and is the last of the school’s original employees. Athletic Director Mike Penrose said Keefer was one of the “founding fathers” of Indiana high school basketball. 

“This is a historical moment for Indiana high school basketball,” Penrose said. “There have been many a coach that have come through Indiana high school basketball, and Coach Keefer stands at the top.” 

During his tenure, Keefer led the team to four state championships, one state runner-up, five semistate titles, seven regional championships and 19 sectional crowns. He coached three players who would later become top 10 NBA draft picks, including 2006 Indiana Mr. Basketball winner Greg Oden, who was the No. 1 overall pick of 2007 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.

In 2007, Keefer, who tallied 804 career wins at Lawrence North, was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

“We really enjoy the fans that are here,” Keefer said. “I think we get better support for the kids than any of the schools around the county because our kids are good kids, and when you’ve got good players who behave themselves, then it’s easy to support them. We have done that very well here. You can tell it’s been very emotional for me. I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

Keefer graduated from Oak Hill High School in 1961 and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in education and accounting from Ball State University, where he played on the freshman basketball team and was a four-year track and field athlete. He received his master’s in education administration from Indiana University. 

Keefer said during his early years at Lawrence North, the school went through a period when students would move to Lawrence to play basketball at the school. He said making the game enjoyable played a huge role in his coaching success.

“Fun is the greatest part of it,” Keefer said. “When we started out the year this year, we just weren’t having fun. It was too boring and we didn’t like to work that hard, so I made some changes.”
Keefer said he promoted two junior varsity players to the varsity team, which reenergized practices.

“When we got those guys up here, they brought the fun to practice and a harder work ethic, and it makes the game more exciting,” Keefer said. 

Keefer has coached Indiana Boys All-Star team and coached victorious East team in the 2005 McDonald’s All-American Game.

Keefer has served as coach of the McDonald’s Derby Classic, the Indiana East/West All-Star Game, the Indiana North/South All-Star Game and the Jermaine O’Neal All-Star Classic. He has been recognized as the Marion County Coach of the Year, District Coach of the Year and Conference Coach of the Year multiple times.

In retirement, Keefer and his wife, Jan, plan to travel and spend more time at their Brown County property. The Keefers have two adult sons, Joel and Jake.