SFA will meet the Demons in the SLC Tournament title game for the first time
Danny Kaspar has already cemented himself as the most successful head coach in the Division I era of Lumberjack basketball. In 2012-13, his Lumberjacks will try to take the next step toward becoming the consistent power in the Southland Conference. If the 'Jacks can grab a conference title, it would mark the third time in the last six seasons for SFA to win at least a share of the league crown.
The Lumberjacks are coming off an 20-12 season in 2011-12its fourth 20-win season in the last five years. Kaspar's squad also showed why it is one of the top defenses in the nation, following up leading the nation in scoring defense in 2010-11 in which it surrendered just 56.7 points per game by being even better, allowing just 54.4 points per contest. The Lumberjacks also saw Antonio Bostic earn first-team all-SLC honors, and Jereal Scott earn second team all-Southland Conference honors.
Kaspar also moved past 200 career wins at SFA last season and this season will just need 12 wins to reach 450 overall for his entire career.
Last season the 'Jacks finished second in the SLC, falling to eventual tournament champion Lamar in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament. That came on the heels of SFA narrowly missing out on a third consecutive Southland title, finishing second to Sam Houston State in 2010.
SFA reached the championship game of the Southland Tournament for the second year in a row and the fourth time in Kaspar's tenure, but fell to the rival Bearkats. The season saw three Lumberjacks earn all-conference honors, as Eddie Williams was named to the second team, Walt Harris earned third-team consideration, and Jereal Scott took honorable mention.
With SFA's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Southland Tournament semifinals, Kaspar earned the 400th win of his coaching career.
Four years ago, Kaspar and his team put all the pieces together for a fantastic 2008-09 season. SFA took the Southland Conference regular-season title for the second straight year then ran through the league's postseason tournament with three straight wins to earn the first NCAA Championship berth in program history.
The Lumberjacks compiled a 24-7 overall record and went 13-3 in SLC play, taking Kaspar over the 150-win plateau in his SFA tenure. In all, he has 181 wins with the Lumberjacks, which ranks third all-time among SFA coaches. The next-best win total by a head coach who led the team exclusively at the Division I level is Ned Fowler's 78 victories.
In 2008-09 Kaspar produced a second straight SLC Player of the Year in senior center Matt Kingsley. The fifth-year player went on to take SLC Tournament MVP honors. Josh Alexander joined Kingsley on the all-tournament team after earning Second-Team All-SLC honors at the end of the regular season. Sophomore Eddie Williams was also named to the all-tournament team, as that year's crop nearly matched the four total all-tournament choices the program had amassed all-time, coming into the 2009 event.
The Lumberjacks finished the 2007-08 season with a 26-6 record that stands as the best mark in the 24-year history of the program's NCAA Division I tenure. Only four seasons in the Lumberjacks' 84-year history overall have ended with better win totals, with just two of those totals having been reached in regular-season play. SFA's .862 winning percentage ranked 10th in the nation at the end of the regular season. But the season ended in disappointment with a loss in the semifinals of the 2008 SLC Tournament and a defeat at U-Mass in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The 2007-08 league title was the Lumberjacks' first-ever Southland Conference championship. SFA compiled a 13-3 record in SLC play to win a share of the league's hardware and earned the No. 1 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament. This marked the first league title for the program since SFA won the Gulf Star Conference in the 1986-87 season, under Harry Miller, one of Kaspar's mentors.
The Lumberjacks achieved their success in 2007-08 by playing basketball Kaspar's way. SFA put together one of the best defensive performances in Southland Conference history. Through the end of the regular season, the Lumberjacks' 55.0 points allowed per game ranked second in the nation and would have been a new SLC record. It is the best defensive average for an SFA team since joining the NCAA Division I ranks and is the best mark for a Lumberjack squad in the shot clock era.
Team success wasn't the only kind enjoyed by the Lumberjacks in 2007-08. Alexander was named the SLC Player of the Year, marking the first such honor for an SFA player since the Lumberjacks joined the league in the 1987-88 season. Alexander, a former SLC Freshman of the Year, led the 'Jacks in scoring with 16.5 points per game, through the 29-game regular-season slate.
For his efforts, Kaspar was named Coach of the Year, his first such honor at SFA. Junior center Matt Kingsley joined Alexander on the all-conference list with a second-team nod, and sophomore point guard Eric Bell was named honorable mention.
Kaspar has reached his current level by turning the Lumberjack program from an also-ran in the Southland Conference to one of the most consistent teams in the league. He has guided SFA to the SLC Tournament in eight of his 10 seasons as coach, including four trips to the tournament championship game.
The team SFA puts on the floor these days is a far cry from the one Kaspar inherited. When the coach arrived, the Lumberjacks had gone a combined 20-59 in the three seasons prior. The squad had won just four and six games, respectively, in the two seasons immediately preceding Kaspar's hiring. Since that time, though, the 'Jacks have turned the corner and become a competitive force in the Southland Conference.
Kaspar first began showing results in his second season with the 'Jacks, when he led the team to a 13-14 regular season record and a fifth-place finish in the SLC standings. The fifth-place finish was the highest finish for a Lumberjack team since a fourth-place showing in the 1996-97 season. The 10-10 SLC record also qualified the 'Jacks for their first postseason tournament in five seasons.
In year three, the Corpus Christi native saw the continued improvement of his team as the 'Jacks posted their first 20-win season since 1986-87. SFA finished the year 21-8 overall and 16-4 in the Southland Conference. Kaspar helped guide the 'Jacks to a second-place regular season finish and a berth in the conference tournament finals, both firsts for SFA since joining the Southland Conference.
Coach Kaspar picked up career win No. 250 during the 2002-03 season with a victory over Southeastern Louisiana, and finished the year with a career mark of 262-92. An early season victory over UT-Arlington evened Kaspar's SFA record at 35-35, the first coach since Marshall Brown to post a .500 record with the team in his first three years.
In the 2003-04 campaign, the Lumberjacks once again won 21 games and made their second straight SLC tournament finals appearance, falling just short to UT-San Antonio, 74-70. The second straight 20-plus-win season marked the first time since the mid-1980s the Lumberjacks have put together two straight seasons with 20 or more wins.
SFA posted a 17-12 mark in 2005-06, including a 9-7 fourth-place finish in Southland Conference play. The Lumberjacks entered the SLC Tournament as the No. 4 seed and defeated McNeese State, 72-70, in the first round, advancing to the semifinals for the third time in four years.
The Lumberjacks again reached the SLC Tournament in 2006-07, when they went 15-14 overall with an 8-8 league record.
Kaspar served as an assistant coach with the 'Jacks from 1983 through the 1986 season. During his three seasons as an assistant for coach Harry Miller, the Lumberjacks recorded two 20-win seasons, won 16 games in the other season, and never finished lower than third in the conference.
A 1978 graduate of the University of North Texas, Kaspar is no stranger to winning. He spent nine seasons as the head coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. In his tenure, Incarnate Word posted an overall record of 219 wins against only 52 losses. That 219-52 mark was the best record for any four-year institution in Texas for the decade of the 1990s.
His teams at Incarnate Word posted nine straight 20-win seasons, including five seasons where his teams won 25 or more games in a single campaign. Kaspar's Incarnate Word teams also won or shared five regular season conference titles as well as four conference tournament titles.
During the 2000-2001 season, his first at SFA, Kaspar led the 'Jacks to a 9-17 overall record and a conference record of 6-14. His team was in contention for a spot in the SLC postseason tournament until the final week of the season.
Prior to becoming a head coach, Kaspar served as an assistant for some of the legends of college basketball coaching. Not only did he work for Harry Miller for three years at SFA, but Kaspar also worked on the staffs of Billy Tubbs, Gene Iba and Dr. Gerald Stockton.
During his one season with Tubbs at Lamar, Kaspar helped the Cardinals to a Southland Conference title and the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Lamar advanced to the Sweet Sixteen that year, losing to Larry Nance and Clemson.
In 30 years as a collegiate coach, Kaspar has only been associated with six teams with losing records. In two of those seasons, the teams were one win away from .500 records or better.
Kaspar and his wife, Deborah, an SFA graduate, are the parents of a college-aged daughter, Nicole.