Starsky and Hutch, Maverick and Goose … Jordan and Josh?
OK, so their friendship hasn’t been broadcast to millions on TV or movie screens like the famous crime-drama duo or the buddies from Top Gun, but Jordan Blackburn and Josh Heffernan, both teachers and head coaches at Hayes High School, are certainly becoming celebrities of sorts around the Delaware community.
Blackburn led the Pacers’ boys basketball team to a share of the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division championship this winter, guiding his squad to a school-record 21 wins — a mark which included a program best 14-game winning streak.
Heffernan, meanwhile, piloted the Pacer wrestlers through a perfect OCC slate culminating in the program’s first-ever conference championship. His team also punched a ticket to its first state dual meet and saw three standouts advance to the individual state showcase.
As if the swell of success wasn’t enough to get the duo pumped up, for themselves, their teams and Delaware as a whole, the fact they’re close friends sweetened the pot considerably. And not friends in the sense that they teach and coach at the same place, either. They’re friends like, well, Blackburn will be the best man at Heffernan’s wedding this July … they’re that close.
It’s a friendship based on a lot of things, one being a similar sense of what coaching and success are all about.
“My friendship with Jordan started when I got here eight years ago,” Heffernan said. “We both went to OU (Ohio University), so I knew he was cool. We both played sports growing up, some similar and some different, but, more importantly, we were both part of winning programs. We both talk about the things that made those programs successful and, here in Delaware, we want to make something great like we had back then. We want to give the kids the opportunities we had growing up … we want to give that back. That’s really at the heart of it.”
“We talk a lot about coaching philosophy, talk about the kids and we talk about how we are trying to motivate each one,” Blackburn said. “The X’s and O’s of our sports are completely different, but we are able to bounce ideas off each other … I think, ultimately, that helps our kids. We talk a lot about about expectations, too, and setting the bar high. We knew our teams this year were special, and we’re happy to have brought our first OCC championships as head coaches back to Delaware in the same year.”
The titles were just as much about Delaware, the school and the community, as they were about the coaches and teams, the two echoed. After all, they like coaching at Hayes just about as much as they like each other.
“I think Delaware is a snapshot of the US as a whole,” Blackburn said. “We have kids that come from more affluent families and kids that come from more middle-class environments, but at the end of the day, the kids want to win and are willing to make the sacrifices to get where they want to be.
“The reason both of us have dug in here is we have tough kids who work hard and expect to win,” he added. “We have a great support system of parents, teachers, fellow coaches and administration. Delaware is a winning city … winning is the Delaware way.”
Heffernan said the pieces are in place to create sustained success, too, which makes Hayes a good place be.
“It’s a good time to coach at Delaware,” he said. “I wouldn’t move for anything. Delaware is a winning community and everything is in place here to win championships. We have great numbers as one of the bigger Division I schools, a great talent pool to pick from, and we have a great mix of kids from all different walks of life, which creates teaching moments.
“And the administration is outstanding,” Heffernan continued. “I’ve never been told I couldn’t do something, just that it could take some time for it to happen.”
When Heffernan took over the reins eight years ago, there wasn’t even a wrestling room for his guys to practice in. There is now, and it’s something the coach and administration spent a lot of time and resources to make happen.
“We have the support, now it is all about growing, which is very fulfilling,” Heffernan said. “It creates a fulfilling environment overall. It’s nice to be at a place that you can build up rather than going to one that already has a tradition of success. We’re trying to build a culture of excellence. All the teams out there are trying to win and teach the best techniques, but we both want to make our kids winners overall, not just in their sport, but in life.”