Birthday celebration: Week before turning 28, Dahl lands opportunity to be JWCC hoops coach

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Jonny Dahl speaks during Monday's press conference inside the John Wood Community College Student Activity Center where he was introduced as the new JWCC men's basketball coach. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — This wasn’t on Jonny Dahl’s birthday wish list, but it will go down as one of the most memorable gifts he’s ever received.

“Unbelievable,” he called it.

Nine days shy of his birthday — Dahl turns 28 years old on July 3 — he was officially introduced Monday as the new John Wood Community College men’s basketball coach. The former JWCC student-athlete replaces Brad Hoyt, who resigned in late April to become the head coach at Quincy University.

“If you had asked me that Tuesday of last week, I’d have said blown away,” Dahl said when asked how it felt to be in this position. “Now, it’s starting to get where it has set in a little more since I spent the weekend on the phone with recruits and working on everything else. The emotions are being suppressed right now.

“At some point, they’re all going to come together and I’m going to have to deal with that. But it’s been fun to hit the ground running right away.”

That’s a necessity because of the calendar.

Although a handful of recruits who had committed to play for Hoyt at JWCC have stuck to their intentions — most notably Camp Point Central guard Nick Moore and Winchester West Central guard Zack Evans — Dahl needs to complete the roster for the 2024-25 season and begin working on future recruiting classes.

“The fortunate thing, just like Coach Hoyt does with everything, he left this program in a great spot,” said Dahl, who played point guard for Hoyt during the 2017-18 season in which the Trail Blazers went 21-11 and reached the Region 24 title game. “Coming into a spot where there are 12 guys on the roster is amazing. Not having to work through rebuilding the roster is huge. We have to find a couple of pieces still, but even if that doesn’t pan out, we’re in a great spot.

“But I still need to hit the ground running because I was already talking to six or seven guys over the weekend for the next class and trying to get them interested in what we do here.”

A majority of the players on the JWCC roster attended the press conference and met with Dahl in the locker room following the media session.

Two returnees — Macomb guard Connor Watson and Illini West guard Nolan Deitrich — gave Dahl’s hiring a thumbs up, and others posted to social media about their excitement to get to work under a new coach. They waited patiently over the past two months for Hoyt’s replacement to be hired, but Dahl hadn’t considered himself a candidate.

“Not even close,” he said.

Dahl, who was an all-state guard at Keokuk, Iowa, and later played at two NCAA Division I programs as well as a season at JWCC, had interviewed for the boys basketball coaching position at Quincy Notre Dame and landed a spot as the sophomore coach at Quincy High School within the last month.

Yet, when he began a conversation last week with JWCC interim athletic director Adam Hightower and JWCC President Bryan Renfro about the JWCC vacancy, Dahl found himself more than intrigued. He discovered it could be the perfect fit.

“I had people reach out to me — guys I had coached, parents of past players, etc. — and say I should apply for this,” said Dahl, who works as a State Farm Insurance agent in Quincy. “I was sort of trying to figure out where I wanted to put my feet at. I would have loved to have had three to five more years under (QHS coach Andy Douglas) and that staff and learned from such a great staff.

“But there’s a purpose for everything, a reason behind everything. That’s where I’m finding my comfort right now.”

He doesn’t take that lightly.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was fortune or luck involved in it,” Dahl said. “I’m just happy those were my cards, that this is part of my journey.”

The opportunity is something he values more than he can articulate.

“Too much emotion,” Dahl said. “Too much to put into words.”

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