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Jan Conner documentary follows her return to coaching at Jeff
October 22, 2012Lafayette Jefferson High School
By Sam King
Brash and controversial are monikers Jan Conner never shied away from.
She’s also a sensitive, basketball-minded genius.
Matt Kerkhoff attempted to capture both sides of the Hall of Fame coach in a 68-minute documentary, “Within A Season,” that follows Conner’s return to coaching after a five-year hiatus.
The film, centered on the 2006-07 Lafayette Jefferson girls basketball team, premieres at 10 a.m. ET Oct. 20 at Lafayette 7.
“I’ve always been fascinated with what makes a good coach and how they work with kids,” said Kerkhoff, a 1993 Benton Central graduate who attended when Conner coached there.
Conner posted an .826 career winning percentage as a high school coach at Warren Central, Benton Central, Martinsville, and Lafayette Jeff, where she coached from 2006-09 and won her 17th and final sectional title in the 2008-09 season. Conner also coached 10 regional champions and four semistate titles.
Martinsville won the 1997 and 1998 state championships under Conner’s tutelage.
She stepped down at Martinsville after the 2000-01 season. In 2006, Maurie Denney, then Lafayette Jeff’s athletic director, hired Conner to resurrect the Bronchos. There was an immediate change in coaching styles.
“It was my first year, and I needed to set the tone for how I wanted practices to go,” Conner said. “We had some kids who didn’t believe we could win. No matter what we tried, they weren’t mentally ready to put out that kind of effort.”
Stephanie White, a former Seeger High School and Purdue University basketball star who's now an assistant coach with the Indiana Fever, narrates the film.
Through the editing process, Kerkhoff realized he needed the assistance of a narrator, and he wanted a woman’s voice. White, who was coaching with the Chicago Sky at the time, agreed to meet and record voiceovers.
The 2006-07 Bronchos endured a 12-10 record, acceptable considering the strength of schedule the team faced. The story isn’t the wins and losses, but rather how the team improved throughout the season.
“I know it’s not Hollywood and they win the championship,” said Kerkhoff, who worked at WLFI-TV at the time of the filming and now works at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis.
“It’s still a great glimpse into what a coach and Jan had to go through at the time. On the screen, you see how the team grows from beginning to end.”