The final horn has sounded for Jason Horn at Southwest. After six years at the helm of the Trojans, Horn is resigning to take the varsity boys basketball position at Neosho.
"This was a very tough decision to make," said Horn. "Southwest has been a great place to work, and I've really enjoyed my time here. I'm really going to miss seeing my players and interacting with them on a daily basis. The boys basketball job at Southwest is a good one. There is a lot of talent coming back and the potential (is there) to compete for another conference and district title."
Horn arrived at Washburn in 2006 to take over a program in shambles. The Trojans had suffered through a long dry spell, posting only one winning season in the previous 11 campaigns. His first Southwest team struggled to a 4-20 mark, but improved to 12-12 the next season.
That was the season when Southwest basketball turned the corner, when the players made the quantum leap from hoping to win to expecting to win, and the fans regained their enthusiasm and excitement for the game.
Horn's last four teams posted records of 16-10, 23-4, 16-11, and 23-5. They were Ozark 7 co-champions in 2010, and won the conference title outright in 2012. Southwest ended a 15-year embarrassment of losing in the first round of districts with a victory over Diamond in the 2010 postseason.
This year, the Trojans advanced to the finals of their Class 3 district tournament, before losing to Mt. Vernon on the Mountaineers' home floor.
In six seasons, Horn's Southwest teams went 94-62 as he became the boys basketball coach who won the most games in school history. Willis Cagle posted a 79-55 record in the 1960s while leading the Trojans to back-to-back district titles in 1965 and 1966.
Of his most memorable victories at Southwest, Horn said, "There were a lot of games that stand out. The first black-out game beating Purdy in 2008-09 was a great game with a huge crowd. Beating Billings this past season when they were ranked number one in the state, beating Thomas Jefferson at their place when we were both state ranked in 2009-10, and beating Wheaton to win the Holiday Tournament for the first time since 1999 were all very special moments.
"The toughest challenge in taking over the Southwest job was changing the mentality of the program," continued Horn. "We had to make hard work and winning an expectation and it was rough early but the kids really embraced the process. Now they have a lot of pride in the program and what it means to be a Southwest basketball player."
Horn's fierce competitive spirit rubbed off on his players, and they learned the level of hard work and dedication required to be successful as players and as young men.
Horn thinks he is more than ready to take his game to Neosho to compete in the ultra-competitive Central Ozarks Conference. The challenges at Neosho are similar to what he faced early on at Southwest, just on a bigger stage.
"The chance to revive a program at the Class 5 level in the COC was the biggest attraction of the Neosho position," said Horn. "My first goal is to improve player development and create some excitement around the basketball program. That will be crucial for us to succeed in the COC. We have to get a system in place with the young kids and create some continuity in the program. If we can address those issues, then we will begin to create a winning culture in the Neosho basketball program.
"Neosho will be a great opportunity for me and my family," explained Horn. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of building a quality program at the Class 5 level in the toughest conference in the state."
Horn was twice named the Ozark 7 Coach of the Year.