Jack Jensen, who taught and coached at Guilford for 45 years, died suddenly March 28 after returning from a collegiate golf tournament. He was 71.
Jensen coached men’s basketball for 29 years until 1999 and was in his 33rd season as coach of the golf team. His teams won four national championships: the 1973 NAIA men’s basketball title, the 1989 NAIA golf title and the 2002 and 2005 NCAA Division III golf titles.
In his career, Jensen coached future NBA players M.L. Carr ’73, World B. Free ’76 and Greg Jackson ’74 as well as Greensboro’s Lee Porter ’89, who spent six years on the PGA Tour.
“Jack was a beloved mentor for hundreds of students for many years,” said Guilford President Kent Chabotar. “He touched so many lives in a positive way as a teacher, coach and friend, and he is held in high esteem by generations of Guilford alumni. Jack had an enduring presence on our campus and in the Greensboro community, and his loss will impact so many people who admired him. He was among the first Guilfordians I met when I became president in 2002, and his unfailing courtesy and competitiveness are among my fondest memories of this world-class man.”
“As great a coach as Jack was, he was an even greater person,” said Tom Palombo, director of athletics and men’s basketball coach. “It is an honor to have been at Guilford with him and to talk with him every day. He knew a lot about basketball and a lot about people. Being able to share ideas about teaching and coaching was very special. He will be greatly missed.”
The most decorated coach in Guilford’s history, Jensen was enshrined in the NAIA, North Carolina, Guilford County, Guilford College and Wake Forest University Sports Halls of Fame, as well as the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame. He was only the second person to coach two different sports to NAIA national titles. In 2009, Guilford’s main basketball floor in the Ragan-Brown Field House was renamed Jack Jensen Court.
Jensen came to Guilford in 1965 as an assistant men’s basketball and head track and field coach. He assisted coach Jerry Steele’s basketball teams before assuming head-coaching duties in 1970 when Steele left to direct the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association. He had a 386-392 record as head coach. In the 1970s, his basketball teams were 207-71 with six 20-win seasons.
Jensen became golf coach in 1976 and his teams made 26 national tournament appearances, including 17 top-10 finishes. Under his direction, 25 Guilford students have received 40 performance and 12 Academic All-America honors in golf.
Jensen played on Wake Forest University’s 1960-61 Atlantic Coast Conference championship basketball team under coach Horace “Bones” McKinney. He graduated from Wake Forest in 1961 and received a master’s degree in education from UNC Greensboro five years later.
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Marsha Jensen ’74. The couple has two adult children, Laura Jensen Thornburg ’97 and Dennis Jensen ’00, and one grandson, Jack Holton Thornburg.
Wednesday, March 31
Alumni Gym, Guilford College campus
Parking: Limited spaces will be available on campus. Additional parking will be available in lots near the campus. Guilford adult students are encouraged to carpool to evening classes.
Thursday, April 1
Ragan-Brown Field House, Guilford College campus
Parking: Limited spaces will be available on campus. Additional parking will be available in lots near the campus.
Forbis & Dick Funeral Service is serving the Jensen family.