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A day of loss, a night of victory: Jan Jensen and a Sunday full of emotion
Hours after word came from back home of her father’s death, Iowa assistant coach Jan Jensen helped lead the Hawkeyes to the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four
SEATTLE — She stood atop the ladder, a pair of scissors in one hand, a snippet of nylon in the other.
Before Jan Jensen stepped down, she paused and pointed skyward.
A long, emotional day had ended in victory.
“I can’t believe it, really,” the Iowa women’s basketball associate head coach said in the winning locker room afterward. “Did this all really happen?”
Jensen received the call at 6:45 Sunday morning that her father, Dale, had died in hospice care of pancreatic cancer. He was 86.
“I talked to him Saturday,” Jensen said. “I told him we were playing for the Final Four against Louisville.
“He said, ‘It’s going to be a tough one.’ I told him I’d call him again today.”
That didn’t happen. Instead, the Hawkeyes rallied around Jensen throughout the day, and into the night.
They capped it with a 97-83 victory over Louisville in the Seattle Region 4 final.
“I’m so excited for these kids, and for (head coach) Lisa Bluder,” said Jensen, who has been Bluder’s top lieutenant throughout 23 years at Iowa.
“After I got the news, I group texted the coaches. Jenni (Fitzgerald) was in my room right away, then the rest of them came up.
“We cried a little. I told the team at breakfast. They couldn’t have been sweeter. They said, ‘We got you.’ It’s a testament to how much we all love each other.”
Jensen was named national assistant coach of the year earlier this month. She is well-known for her ability to squeeze greatness out of the Hawkeyes’ posts, particularly Megan Gustafson and Monika Czinano recently.
“She is the epitome of an amazing person, amazing coach, so to see her go through that, it's obviously super tough, especially in one of the highs of all of our lives,” Czinano said.
“But her dad's dream was to see us do this, and so we knew we had to see it through for that, and I believe he was there with us every step of the way.
“Definitely an emotional day all things considered, but I'm sure everybody is happy with the basketball outcome.”