March 26, 2023. Iowa women’s basketball experienced arguably its most euphoric day in the program’s history. For the Hawkeyes’ associate head coach Jan Jensen — she was balancing the highest of highs with the lowest of lows.
Her father Dale passed away at 86 that morning.
“Someday I’d like to have it without the extreme emotion,” Jensen told me in a 1-on-1 interview.
Jensen wouldn’t call for a do-over if she had the choice. In part because of a special memory her team created after the Hawkeyes downed Louisville in the Elite Eight.
“I’ll never forget the moment when we won it,” Jensen said. “We always pick a kid to slap the bracket and Caitlin was like, ‘Come over and do it with me’ — and that gets me choked up.”
“Because you have this family that’s pulling you up. You have this group of people that are recognizing that moment. No coach ever slaps the bracket because your time’s gone. Everyone was like, ‘We did this for you and your dad.'”
Jensen took little credit for pushing through the agony that day. But that same humility is why the Hawkeyes love playing for the one they call Coach J.
“Coach J is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met,” Kate Martin said. ‘When you’re having a conversation with her, she will make you feel like there’s no one else that is around. She’s amazing.”
“I’ve never met a more loving person than Coach J,” Gabbie Marshall added. “She knows what she’s talking about, she knows what she’s doing — she’s always going to be there for us.”
“Jan could’ve been the head coach of Drake University,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “But we had a dream — we wanted to go to a Final Four, we wanted to fill Carver.”
Bluder and Jensen have fulfilled those dreams and then some over their 23-plus years together. But that night in Seattle serves as a driving force to climb that same mountain again — with Jensen’s late parents in mind.
“I was telling my spouse Julie that sometime I’d like to have a year like that where it’s not weighted,” Jensen said. “My mom told be before she passed away, she said life is for the living, and I always remembered that.”