Jake Diebler didn’t always want to follow in his father’s footsteps, but the impact those footsteps were capable of making was simply too much to pass up.
Jake’s father, Keith, is a long-time Ohio high school basketball coach, winning a state title in 2004-2005 at Upper Sandusky when Jake was a senior and his younger brother Jon was a sophomore.
While Jon gets the notoriety for being the all-time leading scorer in Ohio high school basketball history (3,208), and for setting the Ohio State and Big Ten record for career three-pointers made as a Buckeye, Jake was pretty good in his own right. He set the Ohio high school career records for both assists (835) and steals (578), and ended up playing basketball at Valparaiso where he was a three-year starter.
Following his playing days at Valpo, Jake Diebler joined Bryce Drew’s coaching staff at Valparaiso, and then eventually joined Thad Matta’s OSU staff as a video coordinator from 2014-2016. For the last three years, he was part of Drew’s staff at Vanderbilt. Diebler was then named to Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State staff last month, replacing Mike Schrage, who took over the head coaching position at Elon.
Coaches’ kids ending up in coaching is a story as old as time. It’s almost a cliche at this point, and Diebler tried to fight that cliche, at least a bit.
“I tried to deny being a coach probably because I saw my dad as a coach, so I tried to deny it for the longest time,” Diebler said at his introductory press conference on Thursday.
“But at the end of the day, the most influential people in my life have always been coaches. That goes back to my dad, Homer Drew, Bryce Drew, Thad Matta. These people have had a profound impact on my life. I want to have that same impact on players. That’s why I coach. That’s my motivation for coaching. My life has been changed by coaches; I want to have the same impact on guys.”
When Diebler would think about the future after his playing days, he saw himself owning a business. He wasn’t sure what kind of business. He just knew he wasn’t going to be a basketball coach.
Until he had a change of heart.
“It was about mid-way through my junior year of college,” the career 5.1 points-per-game scorer said. “And believe it or not, the NBA was not knocking down my door. I’m a much better teacher than I was a player, because I taught my brother. Every time he makes it — my dad taught the misses, but I did the makes.
“I knew then. It just kind of hit me. I was encouraged by the staff there when I played. I had these huge aspirations to own my own business and do that kind of stuff. That was where I felt like I wanted to be. But I had a heart change and here I am.”
Coaches can have an impact on their players no matter the city or the state or any other variable. The great coaches will always make a lasting impression on their players.
But to be able to do it at a place like Ohio State makes it all the more special.
“I believe in everything that Ohio State stands for,” he said.
Diebler grew up a Buckeye fan, and that increased immeasurably when his brother chose to play at Ohio State.
Diebler’s wife Jordyn is an OSU alum, and he said on Thursday that there are times when he would get home from work and she’d be watching the Ohio State basketball game on the Big Ten Network.
He also said football Saturdays are planned around Ohio State kickoffs.
After trying to deny his calling, Jake Diebler is now doing the one thing that he can’t imagine not doing at the very place he never allowed himself to imagine he’d ever get to be.
“When you talk about home, and especially for us, my wife graduated here and I have a relative who was an okay player here as well, this is home,” he said. “I think there’s something to be said that when you have an opportunity to return home and do what you love with people you love and around people that you love and you’re close with, I think it’s special.
“So yes, to say that I’m excited and my wife is excited and my family is excited is an understatement. Nevertheless, I think it’s something to express because it really is a blessing and an honor to be here. We view it that way.”