Kevin Jackson was a first grade student at Crossroads in 1971, the year the school opened. He played on Crossroads’ first CIF championship basketball team in 1982. Now he’s the Roadrunners’ head coach.
Jackson was head coach at New Roads last season, but applied at his alma mater when Kevin Brown resigned after one season.
The job appealed to Jackson for two very good reasons. He had maintained a relationship with Crossroads as a teacher at the elementary school and he would take over a team that won 18 games last season and lost only one key player to graduation.
Michael Ojo is now at Lehigh University but the balance of the squad returns, including 6-foot-5 Merrick Ross, who excelled as a freshman.
“I have very high expectations for this season,” said Jackson.
“We have good size, including 6-foot-8 Solomon Hennen and 6-foot-7 Conrad Lebowitz, but we can put a good small lineup on the floor too. We had a scrimmage against Culver City High and won by 40 points.”
So far, so good. Crossroads has won six of its first eight games.
The Crossroads coaching situation is unusual. Daryl Roper had a dynasty for a decade, but resigned after a 4-20 season in 2005. Brown came in, did well, but resigned to pursue a coaching opportunity in a foreign country.
“Kevin took the team from 4-20 to 18-9 and a berth in the CIF playoffs” said Jackson. “He did an outstanding job, but when he left there became an opportunity for me.
“I’ve known most of these players since they were in kindergarten.”
Jackson’s Crossroads coach was Rich Makoff, at a time when Roper was coming in as an assistant. Jackson praises Makoff for establishing “a family atmosphere.” He also praises Paul Cummins, who co-founder of Crossroads, and later New Roads, for developing the two Westside schools.
Jackson has three assistant coaches, all Crossroads graduates. They are Noel Bloom, class of ‘96, Trey Brown (2000), and Anthony Locke (2001).
“It’s the first time in school history the entire coaching staff has been Crossroads alums,” said Jackson.
While realizing wins and losses are important, Jackson lists character development as an important part of the head coaching position.
“I teach the players to respect yourself, then others,” he said. “I’ve seen instances where there was friction between players and it spread to parents in the stands. We don’t want that.”
Jackson said he wants players to enjoy the game, yet he employs stern discipline.
Crossroads won four games, lost two, then defeated Pacific Hills, 56-51, and West Torrance, 71-53.