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Jimmies' Tanner Slag goes from playing JV to coaching JV

Tanner Slag spent his first two years at University of Jamestown on the junior varsity team before getting called up to the varsity roster.

Tanner Slag.JPG
Jimmies assistant basketball coach Tanner Slag coaches his JV team against Lake Region State College on Dec. 1,2021. Max O'Neill/The Jamestown Sun

Tanner Slag has spent a lot of time over the last few years at Harold Newman Arena. Slag first arrived on campus as a freshman from New Salem, North Dakota, looking to play college basketball.

Slag would play but he played on the Jimmies junior varsity team. Slag suited up for the JV squad for his first two years before making the jump to the varsity team.

During Slag’s time with the JV team, he was coached by then graduate assistant Tyler Peterson. Since then, Peterson has been promoted to assistant coach of the Jimmies where Slag now works alongside him.

“We had a great relationship. We both came in here together. I don’t know anything without him. I don’t know Jamestown basketball without him," Slag said. “It’s been awesome. I’ve been able to learn a lot, taking his experiences from when he was coaching me on JV to now coaching with him. I’ve been able to ask questions and use him as a mentor, the things that he did and have somebody to feed ideas off of and talk to and learn from.”

The relationship between Peterson and Slag has changed from when they had a coach-player relationship to a co-worker relationship.

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“I mean your relationship obviously gets more casual when you are working with him," Peterson said. “The one thing that has always been consistent is the trust factor, you trusted him when he was a player and I trust him now.

“It’s definitely more loose now, obviously being co-workers is a lot different than a coach-to-player relationship. We can joke around now off the floor and I think he has a good idea of how different it is now as a coach than what he thought it was as a player.”

In his last season on the JV squad in 2017-18, Slag was joined by current Jimmies senior Devon Schultz. The immediate change from player to coach is one where Slag has to balance being a coach versus being a friend and former teammate.

“It’s always an interesting change going from playing with these, going into that relationship to now going into a coaching role,” Slag said. “It’s just picking and choosing because there are times when we are still able to joke around and be friends, but on the court, it is a different relationship to now it’s serious and coming from a different level.”

As his career was winding down, head coach Danny Neville approached Slag with the idea of joining the staff.

“I think anytime you’re looking for a coach you want somebody that is a hard worker and really gets it and that you trust. Obviously, him being in the program with us helps a ton,” Neville said. “His dad was a coach, he has it in his blood.

“I think it was halfway through his senior year I kind of poked at him and said, ‘Hey would you be interested in coaching for us and being a GA (graduate assistant).’ He honestly hadn’t really thought about it, he took some time and thought and ultimately decided this was what he wanted. For me, it was an easy hire.”

As the current JV coach Slag believes that his time on the team allows him to relate to his players.

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“I think it definitely helps because when you’re on the JV program, everybody wants to get to the varsity team," Slag said. “So, I think I can help them a lot and they can relate to my situation as somebody who went and did that. So, knowing the steps that you need to take to get to that end goal of making the varsity team.”

Neville believes that sometimes the message that he wants to get to his team is better received when Slag delivers it rather than when he delivers it.

“I think he can tell them the same thing I'm telling them but in a different way,” Neville said. “Which isn’t probably going to be more of a laid-back comment rather than a screaming comment.”

After Slag’s career ended after the 2020-21 season, he followed in the footsteps of two players before him who went from playing on the JV team to coaching the team. Those two are Brady Cameron and Colton Lund. Despite Cameron and Lund leaving their positions on Neville’s staff for NCAA jobs, Slag is not thinking that far ahead yet.

“I’m not sure what I want to do after Jamestown. I’m trying to learn as much as I can in my two years here and soak it all in,” Slag said. “Right now, I’m just going to be where my feet are and focus on having a successful year this year and doing the best job I can.”

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