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Friday, February 27, 2015

Married Coaches Bring Vow Factor To Mississippi Girls Basketball

from espnW

Janna and Jason Thompson added to their trophy collection last year when they both led their teams to Mississippi state championships.

Janna and Jason Thompson made a vow to each other even before they got married.
Never -- ever -- again would the high school girls'  basketball coaches in Mississippi play a regular-season game against each other.

"Once we got together," Jason said, "we made a pact never to do that again."
Janna Thompson, the coach at Horn Lake (Mississippi), and Jason Thompson, the coach at H.W. Byers (Holly Springs, Mississippi), have been doing just fine without saying "I do" to a game between the two state powers.

Last year, Janna led Horn Lake to the 6A state title and Jason led Byers to the 2A state title. They are believed to be the first married couple in Mississippi history to win state basketball titles with different teams in the same year.

"I felt like we won state twice," said Abria Gulledge, now a 6-foot senior wing at Byers. "We were, like,  playing together, basically.

"Last year was fun, and we both want to get back to Jackson."

That's where Mississippi holds its state girls' basketball championships, and both Byers and Horn Lake have a shot at getting back to the Final Four next month.


Janna Thompson, who played point guard at Delta State, has coached Horn Lake to two state titles.

Jason Thompson, 39, has led H.W. Byers to six state titles, including the past four years in a row. The four straight championships have coincided with the time he started dating the former Janna Lyons, and Jason said there's a reason why.

"We bounce ideas off each other quite a bit," said Jason, who aspires to coach with his wife at the college level someday. "We go back and forth and say, 'If I were your opponent, this is what I would do.'

"[Janna] is great at paying attention to details and knowing how to make adjustments. It doesn't take her long -- she can immediately recognize what works and what doesn't."
Janna, 32, has won two state titles -- in 2010 and 2014.

At 5-foot-6, she is six inches shorter than her husband, but she can boast the better college career, having played point guard for Delta State and reached the Division II Elite Eight one year.

Her collegiate clippings are an important piece of trash-talking evidence because Jason, who played one year at Mississippi Valley State before getting sidelined because of numerous injuries, and Janna compete with each other at just about everything,  from dominoes to cards to gift-giving.
In fact, about the only thing they don't compete at is basketball.

Instead of trying to beat each other in hoops, they try to help each other succeed.
"It's nice to have someone to be able to vent to," Janna said. "My girls think my practices are tough now, but without Jason, it would be a lot worse.

"He gives me another perspective. If I didn't have that, I may come to school the next day after a loss and call for a three-hour practice."

Jason's players feel lucky he has Janna. Before they got together, Gulledge said, Byers would practice at every opportunity.



Jason Thompson has won six state titles and dreams of teaming up with his wife on the same sideline someday.


"We used to think, 'Coach needs to find a valentine,'" said Gulledge, who has played for Jason since her eighth-grade year. "He never gave us a break."

Jason and Janna met in 2007 when both were coaching at a basketball camp. Jason remembers thinking at some point that Janna was "a nice-looking coach who works hard and does a good job. But I wasn't thinking anything past that."
Janna was thinking even less than that.

"The first time we met was just my second year coaching," she said. "He didn't spark my interest at all. The only thing I found impressive was that I knew he had won championships."
Things changed in the summer of 2011 when Jason's father, Jessie, introduced himself to Janna.
"He said, 'I thought you and my son would have gone out on a date by now,'" Janna said, recalling the conversation. "I was like, 'Who is your son?'"

That night, at his father's suggestion, Jason gave Janna a call -- ostensibly to thank her for coming out to his summer tournament.

"No coach ever thanks you for coming out to a summer tournament," Janna said. "I was rolling my eyes back then, but I'm grateful now."

The couple were engaged in 2012 and married on May 21, 2013.

The wedding date was special -- right in the middle of their birthdays. He was born May 20, and her birthday is May 22.

"I think he picked that wedding date so he wouldn't forget our anniversary," Janna joked.

The Thompsons' home is also strategic -- it's located about 25 minutes from Horn Lake and roughly the same distance from Byers.

And the other major part of this basketball family is their 5-year-old son Jaydon -- biologically, he is Janna's from a previous relationship, but he is clearly the light of both their lives.

"Jaydon is a coach in training," Janna said. "He walks around the gym like he runs the place. He knows everyone, and he's bossy."

Jaydon can be found sitting on Janna's bench or on Jason's, depending on the night.
"He knows all the players on both teams and all their jersey numbers," Janna said. "He knows them better than I do. Sometimes a college coach will say, 'What about No. 13?' And Jaydon will know the girl's name before I do."

In the five years since Jaydon was born, Jason and Janna have combined to win six state titles -- an impressive haul.

But whose program is better?

They both agree that Jason won their only matchup in the regular season. But in summer ball, Janna said, her team beat his, which differs from Jason's recollection.

"That's a sensitive subject," Janna said. "He doesn't want me to have bragging rights, but the first time we played them, we beat them.

"But it was not about Jason Thompson -- contrary to his popular belief. It was just that we beat H.W. Byers."

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