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Jakacki and Lieberth: An unbreakable, genuine friendship

Jakacki and Lieberth: An unbreakable, genuine friendship


Crestwood basketball coaches and best friends Bob Lieberth (left) and Josh Jakacki stand together during a practice last week at Crestwood Middle School. Their friendship was sparked when they started coaching together during the 1998-99 season.
Tom Nader/Portage Sports

By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


When Josh Jakacki is talking, it is not unusual for Bob Lieberth to finish his sentence.

When Lieberth is talking, Jakacki can do the same.

Nothing rude is going on here.

It is just two best friends who know each other so well that their brains travel down the same thought process.

Both personally and also as basketball coaches.

So much so, that they both admit that at this point in their careers, they wouldn’t still be coaching if the other was not there by their side.

Their 26-year friendship is so deep that it is almost difficult to unwrap all of the details.

That is the beauty of being best friends, though. Those details exist and unfold without a blueprint of how to get there. It just happens.

At the core, though, is an unbreakable trust.

Jakacki is officially the Crestwood boys basketball head coach, but Lieberth has as much freedom to say and do what he needs to in order to make sure the team is performing to their expectations.

It is not Jakacki’s team solely. It is their team together.

Crestwood boys basketball head coach Josh Jakacki (left) and varsity assistant Bob Lieberth talk to their team during a practice last week at Crestwood Middle School.
Tom Nader/Portage Sports

In fact, Jakacki said one of the greatest compliments he received came from Crestwood Superintendent Dave McMahon, who commented that if you were to walk into a game or practice, you wouldn’t know who the head coach is.

The comment was not delivered with a negative overtone, but instead quite the opposite, as a commendation of a program that allows its staff voices to be heard and that those voices are all working together in harmony with each other that it doesn’t matter who is directing and when.

With Jakacki and Lieberth, there are no egos.

There is no scorekeeping on whose idea was better and when and why.

There is no tip-toeing around conversations.

There is just pure friendship.

The strongest kind, where conversations happen naturally and reactions are true, respected and heard.

And the connection was immediate.

Lieberth had watched Jakacki play at Crestwood before he starred at Hiram, but the duo did not truly get to know each other until 1998-99.

Under Paul Woodard’s Crestwood basketball staff, Lieberth was a varsity assistant and Jakacki was brought in as the freshman coach.

The Red Devils won the first of back-to-back Portage County League championships that year and Lieberth remembers respecting the young Jakacki as a coach immediately.

“His basketball IQ was off the charts,” Lieberth said of Jakacki. “I think Paul always did a great job of letting people have a voice and Josh would present ideas and gameplans that were great. We all recognized it and absorbed it right away. You could tell he had a lot to offer to the program right away.”

Part of that became the blossoming friendship between the two.

“I could sense a friendship early,” Jakacki said. “Nothing was artificial or manufactured. Everything was real and it always has been. It has been wholesome and our entire families get along.”

Over time, Jakacki has coached Lieberth’s sons. Lieberth has coached Jakacki’s sons. Liberth’s sons have coached Jakacki’s sons. Jakacki is an assistant coach on the Crestwood track and field team, which is coached by Karlie (Lieberth) Poole.

Wives Alisha Jakacki and Kathy Lieberth share similar interests.

There have been birthday celebrations, weddings, graduations, baptisms and many other special events shared between the two families.

Jake Lieberth is now the JV boys basketball coach at Crestwood and Mason Jakacki is a middle school boys basketball coach for the Devils.

It continues a trend that a Jakacki or Lieberth have been associated with the Red Devils’ basketball program for every season except four dating back to 1977.

Lieberth was the head coach in 2011 when Crestwood won the Portage Trail Conference’s Metro Division championship. The Red Devils were struggling at Ravenna in a game that could secure the title.

“We were having major issues with Ravenna’s 1-3-1 zone, and we just were not playing well,” Lieberth said. “Who met me in the hallway at halftime with tips? Josh. He was coaching Kenston at that time, so he didn’t have to be there for our game, but he was because he wanted to support the team and he wanted to support me. We went on a third-quarter blitz in that game and rolled from there on and won the championship.”

In total, Jakacki and Lieberth have won five titles together at Crestwood: 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2016-17 and 2019-20.

“The wins and championships are special. They are what teams work so hard to accomplish, but at the end of the day it is the relationships that are what it is all about. For Bob and I, basketball sparked our friendship all those years ago. We have been best friends ever since, and I couldn’t imagine …”

“… anything different,” Lieberth said.

1 Comment

  1. Cheryl Miller January 4, 2023

    Very beautiful article…


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