By Kathryn Arena '21 / Sports Information Intern
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- When Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball alumnus Jamie Kohn of Columbia finished his time as a four-year collegiate student-athlete, he had two things on his mind: basketball and traveling.
For multiple years following his 2012 graduation, Kohn traveled throughout Europe playing the game he loved at a high level. It wasn't until more recently that he discovered a new passion surrounding basketball: coaching and leading his own organization.
After completing his college career with multiple academic (two-time first-team Academic All-District) and athletic (tournament MVP on Eastern's first conference title team in 12 years) honors Kohn signed a one-year contract with the Tees Valley Mohawks, a Division 1 team located in Middlesbrough, England. He expanded on his basketball career in the coming years (2012-2015) by playing for a variety of 1st Division teams throughout Austria and Britain. "It was a great experience to play at a very high level," Kohn said, "It was cool that I could prove to myself that I could play at a high level with so many great players."
Kohn, 30, traveled to a variety of countries – including Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia -- with the different teams on which he played. Kohn was no stranger to European culture and society, as he spent his early childhood living in Oberndorf, Austria with his family. After sustaining multiple injuries and feeling the pressure to fulfill his contract on the first league teams, Kohn decided to return to his childhood home and compete. He returned to Austria, where he fell in love with the game of basketball.
Kohn continued playing with BBU Salzburg, a second league team, before realizing a newfound passion, coaching. "I realized that what brought me the most joy was playing, but also coaching and getting the chance to have an influence on a team and a team's values," he said. Kohn ultimately wanted to have more of an influence on other basketball players in the area.
At right: Jamie Kohn began his career playing for the Tees Valley Mohawks soon after graduating in 2012.
In order to take his passions to the next level, Kohn became a player-coach at another Salzburg club, BSC Salzburg. He started his time there (2016-2017) as a player-coach for one of the men's local league teams. "It was a challenge, but we all worked together, and we won the championship two years in a row," he said.
After multiple successful seasons as a player-coach, Kohn took on a new role as BSC Salzburg club president. "I just wanted to keep going and keep having a positive influence on those around me," he said. He now wears three different hats as player, coach and president. "It's a challenge," he said, "but a good challenge to build the club."
BSC Salzburg now has four different teams, including men's teams, women's hobby teams and kid's teams. As president, Kohn is now in charge of the organizational aspects of the club. He focuses on scheduling gym times, making schedules, and managing player membership information. Although Kohn now holds an administrative position, he still plays and coaches in the club. The club travels locally and has a great advantage with the German border so close. "We play and scrimmage teams in the German league, which is a great experience for the players" he said.
Kohn's time at Eastern helped shape him into the working professional he is today, especially his time playing under head men's basketball coach, Bill Geitner. Under Geitner, Kohn's teams went from fifth place in the Little East Conference and a first-round tournament loss in his freshman year to the outright LEC regular-season championship and LEC tournament title in his senior season. As a physical 6-foot-5 inch, 195-pound forward, Kohn scored over 1,000 points and grabbed nearly 900 rebounds, was a two-year member of the LEC All-Defensive Team, twice led the conference in rebounding, and, as a senior, was presented the prestigious Francis E. Geissler SportsPerson-of-the-Year Award which rewards team spirit, fairness, sportsmanship, and integrity.
"He is an amazing coach," says Kohn of Geitner, "and I still use a lot of the stuff that he taught us, and I work those into my teams' practices," he said. "We also developed a good relationship off the court, which has helped me so much in my career."
Going to school at Eastern after graduating from nearby Coventry High helped Kohn break out of his shell, and he credits his time here to helping him find a voice both on and off the court. He learned how to be a leader both in basketball and in life.
One of Kohn's goals has been to increase the interest of basketball with Austrian youth. With many kids turning to soccer and skiing, Kohn has tried to bring attention to the game of basketball. The kids who are choosing basketball are developing to be high-level players due to early basketball concentration. "In America, kids are encouraged to play multiple sports in different seasons, but here that is not the norm at all," Kohn noted. "The norm here is that you pick one sport and you stick with it and play it year-round. There are even schools where part of your school day is training for your sport."
Basketball still has a lot of growing to do in the country, but thanks to Kohn and his club, more people can enjoy and play the game of basketball at a high level.
At left: Jamie Kohn's physical inside game and rebounding ability played no small part in the Warriors' rise to the top of the Little East Conference, where they have been the conference's most dominant team for a decade.
With so much experience around the game of basketball, it is no wonder that Kohn now has multiple titles. As a player, coach and organization leader, he can be around the game he loves and take part in raising the next generation of basketball professionals.
While his time at Eastern is well behind him, Kohn has carried the values he learned on an off the court into his professional career.