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Galesburg native Jason Shay relishing in opportunity to achieve lifelong career goal: head coach

Shay had served as an assistant coach for ETSU for five seasons prior to taking over as head coach

Galesburg native Jason Shay has a long history of success in the college coaching ranks at all levels. He has spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach at East Tennessee State University but his coaching career begun long before that. 

He's held assistant coaching positions at North Dakota, Northwest Florida State College, Tennessee, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Mercyhurst College. 

"I've been on a team that's been ranked number one in the country. I've beaten a lot of top-five teams in the country, especially that were my scouts. I've been to the Elite Eight, one point away from going to the Final Four," said Shay. "But I've also been fired as well, coaching at the junior college as well and all of that so you just never know." 

He had yet to capture a head coaching position until spring 2020 when his predecessor, Steve Forbes, stepped down to accept the head coaching position at Wake Forest. He jumped at the opportunity to take over the program and put his stamp on it. 

"The light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away when you start at this," said Shay. "You don't ever know if you're going to get to this position. My career has been up and down. There have been peaks and valleys. Fortunately there have been more peaks than valleys." 

In his five years as an assistant at ETSU, the Buccaneers had a 130-43 record, the most wins in a five-year run the program has seen in its history. 

"I just kept believing in myself and trying to learn and grow with the game so that I could be the best that I could be and help our players be successful," said Shay. 

For Shay, it's less about what players do on the court and more about what they do after leaving the Buccaneer program. 

"Ultimately, what I tell our guys is it's not about the four years you're here at ETSU but the 40 years beyond ETSU," said Shay. "I'm trying to make them better men, better players. I think that's helped me along the way." 

The Buccaneers sit at 4-4 on the young season.