Former Polson grad to take over Whitworth men’s basketball program

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Damion Jablonski continues to build his career as a basketball coach he never initially thought he would have.

Jablonski, who was a member of the Montana High School Association Class A state track championship team, coached by Bob Gunderson, and also excelled in basketball as a member of the Pirates program, wasn’t recruited as an athlete at Gonzaga and focused his engineering career.

Though focused on his career in college, his passion for basketball was never far away.

Jablonski said being at Gonzaga during the time-period the Zags witnessed the beginning of Gonzaga building themselves into an NCAA Collegiate basketball powerhouse they are today, said watching their destiny grow was an exciting time-period to attend the university.

Jablonski, who spent eight years coaching basketball as an assistant, and associate head coach the last six years for Whitworth College can now add the head coaching title of the Pirates’ basketball program to his growing resume.

“Whitworth is an incredible place, and there are few opportunities I considered after being a part of this great community, and getting the support from the top down,” Jablonski said on his long-standing stint with the program said. “(Whitworth) has just been a great experience all the way around for me.”

Jablonski will inherit a Whitworth basketball program, an NCAA Division-III school, that is part of Spokane’s illustrious tradition with basketball excellence, said he is excited to take on the challenge of being a head college basketball coach.

After spending eight years with former Pirates’ coach Matt Logie, who has a winning percentage of .847 in his eight seasons at Whitworth University, who left Whitworth, for a Division II coaching job at Point Loma Nazarene University, the Polson High School graduate in 1996, and former valedictorian of Polson, initially explored other career opportunities when he ended Gonzaga University.

Jablonski, initially landed a job as an engineer at the Ford Motor Company, working on brake systems for F-150s, but basketball was never far, and soon he began coaching basketball on the side, while in Michigan.

After being involved with coaching, Jablonski decided to transition into the role as a full-time basketball in the mid-2000s, when he got the opportunity to follow Logie to Whitworth.

“I always wanted to be a coach, and I didn’t know the path into college coaching,” Jablonski said. “I assumed I would have to go the teaching route, and that never really interested me at the time, and I went into the corporate world for a few, and I missed (being around basketball. That is when I got into high school coaching on the side before I made my transition into college coaching.”

Jablonski said being a part of the winning tradition at Whitworth has more than adequately prepped him to take on a more significant role in developing the future of the basketball program, which was a major contributing factor in his decision to stay.

“I’ve been a part of (Whitworth) for the last eight years, and I foresee a huge change in direction in the way that we do things,” Jablonski said. “When there is new leadership, there is a different personality I bring to the table, and I am excited about it. Change can be scary, and change is always an opportunity for our guys to get on board, and continue to build the program.”

Jablonski, credits his experiences with his coaches in the Mission Valley, for always inspiring him to become a basketball coach at the collegiate level.

“I wanted to be a (college basketball coach), and I didn’t know the path into the college coaching,” Jablonski said. “I would have gone into the teaching route, but I wasn’t interested in teaching at the time, and I went into the corporate world for a few years, and I missed (the game of basketball).”

Some new coaches to the college ranks would have some trepidation about taking over a program with some a long-standing tradition, but Jablonski said he embraces the challenges.

“There were be a lot of high expectations (entering this job),” Jablonski said. “That is the beauty of Whitworth is that (the program) is what it is, and you wouldn’t have those expectations to follow that type and success and culture that exists in our program. We have guys with great character, that work hard, and have a lot of love for the game, and are talented. We want to maintain that level of talent, and standard, and that is what I am focused on.”

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