Australia to Head Coach. Gaff takes on a new position.

Eric Gaff takes on first season as Head Boys Basketball Coach


Jacob Deahl

Last winter, the Indians had an impressive season getting crucial wins over Penn, Marian, and Hammond. The team was led by Notre Dame commit J.R. Konieczny and a deep senior class with a supporting junior group. This experience and talent led the team to the semi-state game as the Indians fell short to opponent Fort Wayne Leo on a last-second bucket. In addition to Konieczny, the team was led by future hall of fame coach Mark Johnson, but the 2021-2022 team will be led in a different direction. After 36 years, Johnson was ready to hand over his whistle and timer to his assistant coach, Eric Gaff.

The 21-22 season will be the first season that Gaff will be a varsity head coach at the high school level which he says is a very special year to remember. Gaff may be a young head coach but his experience is worldly, literally. He played for about 10 years in different countries ranging from Norway to Australia winning championships in between. After returning to the states, Johnson gave Gaff a call as he was in need of an assistant. Gaff’s entrance to the Saint Joseph coaching staff happened during the 2019-2020 season as he was the JV coach. Now, two years later, those same sophomores are a part of the senior class carrying his team.

“This [senior] class has been special, it’s been a joy to watch them grow and develop into basketball players, young men, and leaders.”

To Gaff, leadership means everything. He calls upon his team to be player-led. He instills in them extreme ownership, positive communication, and a selfless attitude as the basis for being successful. Success for the Tribe started in the middle of summer as Gaff led his team to the Super Hoops Indiana Wesleyan Invitational where his team went 9-1 winning their respective division championship. Carrying over the success from last season and into the summer was crucial for the confidence and team culture Gaff said. Along with this, the expectations for the upcoming year were high with the deep tournament run the previous season and a strong returning senior class.

He commented on the success for the upcoming season saying, “Our goal is to get better… We want to see our boys continue to develop and hopefully be able to play for a sectional championship and make some noise down the stretch.”

As of winter break, the boys have started the season out 3-2 with four of the five games coming down to a last-second shot in the fourth quarter. To get out of the rough patch, Gaff is turning back to his core values of ownership, communication, and selflessness and again counting on his senior leaders to forge the path ahead.

For his career goals, Gaff said, “I want to be the best version of myself and have that show through my teams. I want to lead these young men in the game of basketball and drive them to be the best they possibly can be.”

Gaff has already made an impact the moment he stepped on the hardwood at Saint Joe. But the biggest impact of the year has come from one of Gaff’s players. To some, he is a peer, brother, cousin, teammate, and friend, but to all, he is Tyler Brown. Tyler was severely injured by a bullet in the middle of the fall which has ignited a flame of dedication, love, and friendship amongst the team and Saint Joe community. Not only will this year be special for Coach Gaff and the team, but with the influence of TB4, the boys hope to accomplish something greater than themselves.

I want to lead these young men in the game of basketball ”

— Eric Gaff