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home : opinion : letters to the editor
July 6, 2020

4/8/2020 9:52:00 AM
Coach Jack Kelly: Basketball legend

The first game I remember seeing Jack Kelly coach was the District 7 final in 1975 at Worthington with his great team, which would go on to place 3rd in the State in 1976. In the '70s, Jack Kelly-coached Windom teams were the Duke of Southwest Minnesota basketball and the dominant team. As a kid, watching the 75' team with the tall and talented pair of 6'9 Ken Warner and 6'6" Dan Carpenter, they inspired us all to play the game. Later, I saw many Windom games in the late '70s and played against Jack's great teams in the '80s.
A natural builder, Jack Kelly built the Windom program to be the standard for high school basketball. He did all the details, right from his famous pre-game routines and innovative defenses to his relentless intensity and well-prepared teams. Going to Windom games when we could I would marvel reading the Eagle program on the accomplishments of Jack Kelly-coached teams.
One of my favorite players was his son, Kent, who was one of the basketball greats in the area. I remember all the big games in the Windom gym, including the '79 Windom-Worthington overtime game, which was one of the best high school games I ever saw.
A coach is a teacher first, and Jack's coaching style reflected his teaching with detailed planning, and superb execution. Playing against a Jack Kelly team was a challenge. He and his excellent coaching staff scouted all teams well, and always designed a game plan, which made it difficult to score. Representing Jack's character, his teams were tough, disciplined and always competitive. An outstanding athlete himself, starring at Pipestone and St. Cloud State, Jack led his teams with a competitive spirit that his players adopted.
Jack was a gentleman and was always encouraging student athletes in the area. He would ref many football games at Westbrook and it was reassuring when he was on the field since he was such a professional. Jack was also willing to help other coaches and would graciously share his basketball knowledge.
Coach Kelly was a true legend in Minnesota high school basketball, and he made us all better.
    - Col. Mark Kjorness,
U.S. Army

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