Eaglecrest’s John Olander Jr. cashes out a winner with 5A boys title


Last July, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller signed a contract worth $114 million.

Saturday night, I’d have rather been John Olander Jr. 

I don’t know what Olander Jr. makes per year – it’s none of my business – but I can promise he earned every penny and then some during the 32 minutes it took him to win Colorado’s most recent big school boys basketball state title. Actually, if I had to guess, really put pencil to paper, I’d bet that Olander made all of $3.50 per hour last year en route to winning something that money just can’t buy. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears – and hours – that go into what Olander pulled off over the weekend. And, again, if I had to guess, he’d have done it all for free if he had to. 

That’s just what high school basketball coaches – scratch that, high school anything coaches – do. Damn, man, these guys do it for the love of the game. 

Certainly that’s admirable. But the payday Olander raked in at the old Denver Coliseum Saturday night would make just about anyone jealous.

You think Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset last February? Well, he did, and it was awesome. But Olander’s mic drop was awesome-er. 

You see, Olander’s dad, a legendary high school basketball coach in his own right, was riding shotgun for the entire trip. John Olander Sr. was right there for every glorious second: in the halftime locker room where his son decided that the best way to take down mighty (and I mean mighty) George Washington was to pack his defense into an air-tight zone; on the bench when Junior deftly used all of his timeouts in the most crucial of situations; and in his son’s arms when that final buzzer sounded. 

Along for the ride too was Olander’s son – a little fella who has a few years before he can wear the varsity black and red of the Eaglecrest Raptors. And Colbey Ross, Olander’s senior all-state point guard who had come up short three times before – twice alongside his brother Elijah. 

“My dad is my best friend,” Olander told me after the game, the sweat rolling off his nose as if he’d made every trip up and down the Coliseum’s parquet floor his 46-year-old self. 

“This is for my brother too,” Ross said.

It was Olander Jr.’s final game. He’s hanging it up as a head coach. Ross is headed to play for Pepperdine next season. 

Olander Sr. and Jr. Will have even more time to play golf – they’ll get in a few more rounds than they did last summer, no doubt. Ross will have four more years to perfect his own craft; this kid is so clutch -and so persistent – who knows where the game of basketball might take him. Olander Jr.’s son will have all week to tell his school buddies what a hero his dad really is. 

Hell, even I needed a dose of what Dr. Olander was prescribing on Saturday night. The uber-covered, overly cynical, over-priced, wide, wide world of sports had been grinding me down of late; that was just the shot the arm I needed. Playing witness to what Olander Jr. did before hitting the links for good was a solid reminder of why sports can be so damn great.  

I mean seriously, could there be anything better what John Olander Jr. did this weekend? 

Not for my money. Not in 114 million years.