So Frank mentioned in our earlier interview that you guys had quite the dinner layout for when the coaches visited…
Al Jackson, father of Frank Jackson: Yeah we did, there’s a really good BBQ place in town and we decided that we wanted to give Mom the evening off and we catered it in. It was just tremendous with the whole evening, Coach K was there with Coach Capel and Coach Scheyer, we had a great time.
What was the general mood about hosting the coaches leading up to the visit?
We were real excited about it, real excited about it. Really we just wanted them to get a feel for our kids and to get a feel for the spirit of our home, get an understanding of how we do things and help Coach K get a feel for the kid he is getting and the family he comes from. That was what was communicated last night I hope and it was just a great visit. We were really excited about them coming, it was awesome.
How did things go once they arrived?
Well we visited for a little bit and then Coach K got to meet some family and some family friends who were there, nothing too big, just some people who were there. I think the first story he told was the night before they went to The White House and how they went to dinner that night at the National Archives which was especially great for my wife and I because we teach courses about the Constitution, so he wanted to share that story with us first. He shared a lot of stories and we had some different questions and the kids had some questions for them and he gave some more counsel for Frank. The visit actually really started at the high school, they came there and watched his high school workout. Then he got a chance to sit down with the high school coach and get to meet him and they talked about mutual expectations for Frank with this high school season, and Frank was able to receive some really great advice from Coach K and also from his high school coach in terms of what it’s like to play with great players, how to handle himself. He had a lot of knowledge to share with the high school coach which was cool, and Frank’s high school coach took it all in and had some good thoughts as well. It was just a tremendous outing.
What were the big items in the counsel that Coach K and the staff gave to Frank?
He told Frank to own his body, he told him to take care of your body before and after games, start getting into a habit of that with stretching, watching what you put into your body. That was really good counsel for Frank. He talked about Frank being a great player and having patience with his teammates because Frank is playing with a very young team this year. He counseled Frank on his body language on the floor and how it needs to be in terms of how you deal with the referees. He was great, he nailed Frank with how he fits in. He told Frank some counsel about how he’s coached a lot of good players and how he can help him and he also gave some great counsel to his high school coach on doing a lot of individual work with Frank. You want him to play with the team and he absolutely has to be involved in practice, but the real work will come before and after practice when you and Frank are working one on one and you are able to correct some things that you may not necessarily want to correct in front of the whole team.
It sounds like in a sense that the relationship is changing with Frank and Coach K from being recruited by him to being coached by him—that a good read?
That’s exactly right. We’re part of the family, Frank is a part of the Duke family and between now and when Frank shows up on campus in July—they are going to be hands on. They have stretching things that they want him to do, watch his diet and it was cool. They are going to lay out some real specific things for Frank to work on between now and when he gets on campus in July.
Was there any further discussion on potential future role for Frank and how the roster is potentially shaping up for when Frank is there?
Very little. They talked about how their recruiting is going with some of the kids they are recruiting and how the recent home visits went, but nothing detailed at all. I really wish to be honest with you that Frank could be down there now, he and I would love for him to be there right now. It’s funny they intimated the same thing but they also said that he should be excited for his last high school season. They just said keep doing well, keep working hard and be productive and try not to get hurt.
Since we’re talking roster related items, how are you guys feeling about how Frank fits in based on your discussions with the coaching staff?
It’s all positive, they think they are going to get some more good guys and Frank will be on a quality team next year. We’re not sure how many rosters spots are going to open because we’re not sure how many kids are going to go pro after this year, but all indications are that they are going to have a really good team in 2016 and we’re real positive for that with Frank.
The potential for Frank to play alongside guys like Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen at the guard spots, what do you think Frank brings to the table if he gets the opportunity to play with those guys?
That’d be great. He got a chance to play with those boys when we were there for our visit and he loves them. They’ll be fine. I hope some of those guys stick around to help mentor Frank and to help him along. I know some kids go into college with the mindset that they are one and done but we don’t feel that way. We want Frank to stay in school as long as he needs to so he can get to where he wants to go. He can stay the whole four years if he wants to. We don’t need the money and him having the potential opportunity to play with Derryck Thornton and Grayson Allen and some of those kids would be tremendous, and I think he would like that as well.
Let’s switch gears back to the in-home visit again if I may..what do you remember about seeing all your family members interact with the coaches and any questions that may have been asked?
So my 12 year old was probably the most excited because he knows a lot about college basketball and Coach K and all that. Then my little 7 year old, she could barely say his last name and then my 15 year old, she thought it was cool and she made some homemade cookies for the visit. The interesting thing was nobody left the table, normally when we eat or have people over, the kids eat and then they take off to do other things, but they were in tune to the visit and they really liked Coach K and his staff. Really they were interested in The White House visit and they wanted to know about his family, his wife, they asked about Coach K’s dog, things like that and just getting to know him better. He also asked them lots of questions especially with my 15 year old because he learned that she plays the violin. That helped him conjure up some stories when he played the saxophone, it was great. He said it didn’t last long when he played it because he didn’t like it, haha.
Did you as parents ever imagine you’d be hosting Coach K and his staff in your home?
No, it was surreal, not at all. It was pretty cool for him to come all the way across the country to spend time with us. It was a tremendous honor to have him in our home and it was such a blessing to Frank and to be honest, it was a blessing for our community. You can imagine, Utah is a big state but it’s a small community and we’re at my son’s football game right now and people are coming up asking how the visit went, it’s just great.
What do you remember the most for you personally from the stories that Coach K shared?
A lot involving leadership in terms of the great leaders he’s coached like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James. Also, how a leader has to look strong and that’s something he communicated to Frank was with a young team and how you need to hone in on your leadership skills within you. So take advantage of that opportunity and instead of chastising them when they do something wrong, but put your arm around them and encourage them. Not that Frank chastises his teammates, he doesn’t, he was just giving good counsel in that area.
With you mentioning that you teach a course on the Constitution, what do you remember about what Coach K shared about their recent DC trip?
That was cool that they were able to be in that room and see all those documents. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees bought the original Magna Carta and donated it to the National Archives and he was the one who helped them have a dinner there. He also talked about how he gave the kids their Championship Rings there at that dinner and then being in The White House was really cool. He talked about his interactions with the President, he said the visit was for about 3 hours where they spent about an hour with the President and then the rest of the time in The White House. They really were excited about that visit. The thing that was coolest to hear about was that the President actually knew all the kids and he even went down and introduced himself to some of the freshman who weren’t a part of the Championship team but he made a beeline for them. He said the President looked fresh and engaged. Coach K chided him a little bit on his bracket pick for Kentucky which was funny, but he said that President Obama talked about that he understands that when people don’t like you personally, they don’t know and Duke has that persona that people either love them or hate them. He said that’s ok and how could you ever hate the Duke program based on how Coach K does things the right way and recruits great kids who are great not only on the court but off the court.
What does it mean to you guys and Frank that he’s going to be playing at a program like what you just described?
You know Frank just came over this afternoon to watch his little brother play and he said there’s like 20-25 people in the whole world who are just top notch at what they do and Coach K’s one of them. To have the opportunity to play in a program that’s run by him is just tremendous, it’s a tremendous honor to be a part of that. Frank is very humbled and he’s excited and to be honest with you, since he made the announcement, he’s just carried himself differently. He’s a Duke kid now and his countenance has changed. He’s less stressed about his decision and he feels really good about it and he knows that because he’s a part of the Duke program, he knows he has to act differently. My wife and I have noticed that change in him this past week, overall he’s been great.
How did it feel with the relationship changing now that Frank is committed when the coaches were in your home?
Way, way more relaxed, more joking for sure. Coach K, he can give it but he can also take it. My wife and I have connected at a different level with them now. It was good before, but it’s great now. We feel like we are a part of the Duke family.
You mind if I ask how your wife has kinda gone about handling this entire recruiting process? What’s her feedback been like throughout?
She’s been great. Initially she was BYU or bust, but that’s evolved as we have really have delved into these programs and gotten a better look at the coaches and the opportunities. Hands down, Duke is the top of her list, it’s a top notch program and the way Coach K talks about it, it just resonates with her because the same things that she talks about and the values she holds, we’ve been teaching Frank since he could walk. So when Coach K speaks, it’s the same things that come from Mom and Dad, and you can’t ask for any more than that.
How much of a role did she try to play with communication during the recruiting process and then during this recent visit?
No, not really. I think what she really wanted Frank to do was develop in himself an environment where he would gather all the information that’s possible and then be prayerful about it. My wife is very religious and she wanted Frank to have a spiritual confirmation with his decision and she wanted him to be prayerful about it. So she advised him throughout the recruiting process to live your life worthy of the Spirit, do the right things and everything will work out fine because God will reveal to you all that you need to do when you need to know it. To be able to watch him go through that process was such a blessing for my wife and I, especially with the role that she tried to play with him with this. During the visit she was talking it all in last night. She and I spent the most time with Coach K I would say, he was at our end of the table, so we got to really visit with him and talk with him a lot. She and Coach K really bonded by talking a lot about family and Coach K hosts a radio show, my wife hosts a radio show one day a week, so they have a lot in common which was great to watch.
What kind of radio show does your wife host?
She speaks once a week, she’s got a two-hour time slot that’s actually on the most-listened to time slot in Utah, it’s called K-Talk Radio. The show is called Liberty Moms and the premise is they talk about current events, but they really try to talk about teaching principles of liberty in your home to your children. They do that one day a week for two hours and Coach K has his own radio show where he has various people on.
How did she get into doing that show?
You know, my wife is a Vice President for Homemakers for America and she specializes in helping moms and grandmothers teach principles of liberty in the home and the radio show found out about it and wanted her to come in. They asked her to host a show to talk about that stuff which was really cool.
When you guys visited Duke—did you get a chance to talk with Coach K’s wife at all?
My wife really bonded with her in Durham during the official visit. We had breakfast in their home and she was very gracious. She is such a sweet lady, clearly she’s a sweetheart and family is very important to them. They just resonate with us because they remind us of ourselves. Coach K is very into his family and his family surrounds him in his program. His daughter Debbie works for him and we got to know her a little bit as well on the visit. The spirit there is great, we talked a lot about family there and it was just great.
Frank mentioned you guys are visiting Duke sometime this year—since you do some of the visit planning, are there specific dates you are already looking at?
Yeah, we’re looking at the January schedule to see what works before my Senate schedule starts up. I think I’m going to send Frank down in October for their Midnight Madness and he’s going to hang out there which is great because Wenyen Gabriel is going to be there the same weekend. Him and Frank have developed a really good friendship. They’ve gotten to know each other well through the Adidas circuit, they spent a lot of time together at the Elite 24 event, they got to know each other really well there. They still talk a little bit. Frank talks to Grayson Allen at least two times a week, he texts back and forth with Brandon Ingram, he’s friends with Javin DeLaurier from Virginia. I know Duke is interested in him and Frank texts back and forth with him and Frank talks with Marques Bolden, Jayson Tatum as well. They are all connected, they all know what’s going on and they are hoping for the doors of opportunity to be open to get to know each other on an even more personal level. They are all buddies.
Did the Duke staff discuss at all how their in-home visit went with Wenyen Gabriel this week before they came to your home?
They did, they said it went well, they said it went well. They said he’s got a great family around him, he’s a great kid, a sweet kid. I’ll defer to them in terms of more details on the visit, but from what they told us, it was a very positive visit. Wenyen is a great kid. Frank keeps it low-key with him, they just share information and Frank texted back and forth with Marques Bolden this morning because Coach K and the staff was on their way to his house. They are just sharing information, it’s kinda funny to watch.