By Nick Giannandrea
Dallas Jensen, who turned a long-struggling program into a state contender at his previous job, has been named men's basketball coach at College of the Sequoias.
Jensen becomes the 15th coach the 92-year history of the Giants' program after two highly successful seasons at Gavilan College in Gilroy. He replaces Rusty Smith, who stepped down in March after 18 seasons at COS.
"I think it will be a great move for our family and my career. I'm really excited about it," said Jensen, a 37-year-old married father of four. "When I first heard about the position, I knew it was a great program with great people. But I didn't know much about Visalia or the pieces in place on campus. As I talked to people around the state about it, they all talked about what a great place it was. When I started looking at the big picture, I thought I would be crazy not to look at it. People really raved about what a great place it is."
COS athletic director Brent Davis said the college received a large pool of highly attractive applicants before deciding on Jensen, who went 51-8 with two Coast Conference-South titles and two Northern California Regional appearances at Gavilan.
"As the process unfolded, Dallas hit all the check marks. He's going to be wonderful in the community. He's a relentless recruiter, and he's a great coach and educator," Davis said. "We think we got someone who will build on what Rusty has done and be an unbelievable steward of COS basketball. Dallas is not only going to mesh with our community, but keep a high standard in our men's basketball program."
Before Jensen's arrival, Gavilan had lost 20 or more games for 17 straight seasons, including a 4-20 mark the year before he took over.
During his first season in 2017-18, the Rams went 24-5, tied Cabrillo for the conference title at 9-3 and reached the third round of the Northern California Regional playoffs.
Gavilan was even better this past season, going 27-3 overall and 12-0 in the conference while rising to No. 6 in the California Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Association state poll before reaching the third round of the NorCal Regionals.
The Rams' 51 wins under Jensen matched the total Gavilan had won in the 12 seasons before his arrival.
Jensen helped nine players land scholarships with four-year universities and one sign a professional contract during his two seasons at Gavilan. Three more players from his last team are still weighing scholarship offers.
"In addition to his success on the court, we were extremely impressed with the things he's put in place at Gavilan to develop the whole student-athlete," COS President Brent Calvin said. "We're getting a guy who cares about student athletes while maintaining the standard of excellence set by Rusty."
Jensen is a protege of former COS standout Percy Carr, a Tulare native who carved out a California Community College Hall of Fame career while becoming the state's all-time winningest coach at San Jose City College.
Jensen played for Carr at San Jose City for two seasons before earning a scholarship to Brigham Young University-Hawaii, where he graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology in 2006.
Jensen, who also has a Master's Degree from Western Kentucky University, returned to San Jose City to serve as Carr's lead assistant and recruiting coordinator from 2011-2015.
Jensen also spent two seasons as an assistant at nationally ranked Lone Peak High in Highland, Utah, before taking the Gavilan job.
"I'm a big believer in relationships. Not just in basketball, but all facets of life," Jensen said. "We want to bring a family dynamic into the program. It's all about helping young men progress in life. Helping them as people in addition to basketball."
Jensen, his wife, Kimberlee, daughters Aaliyah, 12, and Palmer, 7, and sons Zander, 10, and Otis, 3, are expected to relocate to Visalia in July.
He will inherit a COS team that went 22-9 and reached the state's Elite Eight in Rusty Smith's final season as coach.
Smith won a school-record 352 games, including two Central Valley Conference titles and four state final eight appearances, during his 18 seasons at COS.
"I am trying to fill some very big shoes in Rusty Smith," Jensen said. "(COS) really is one of the best programs in the state, and that's a tribute to Rusty and Brent Davis and Brent Calvin. They provide everything needed to be successful.
"I want to continue and build on Rusty's success and tradition, and help (the players) in life. Hopefully we can compete for conference titles and push for state. I'm really excited about what we can accomplish in the future."