Working his Magic

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    SPARTA-Chris Jent now has 19 games to prove himself. The Sparta native was appointed the Orlando Magic's interim head coach with the team 31-33 and tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot in the NBA's Eastern Conference. "Of course I think he should get the position when the year is over," said his former high-school coach, Dennis Tobin. "He has 19 games to get the team into the playoffs." Jent, who was named assistant coach last Aug. 12, became the seventh coach in franchise history last Thursday when the team fired coach Johnny Davis. Jent spent the 2003-04 season with Philadelphia as assistant coach/player development. Jent had 10 seasons of experience as a professional basketball player, including two seasons in the NBA. A member of the 1993-94 NBA Champion Houston Rockets, Jent also played for the New York Knicks during the 1996-97 campaign, as well as internationally in Australia, Italy, Spain and Greece. Jent also played five seasons in the CBA. Prior to turning professional, he played four years at Ohio State University from 1988-92. Jent appeared in 123 games with the Buckeyes during his collegiate career, scoring 1,007 points. He connected on 38.2 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. Jent helped Ohio State to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and back-to-back Big Ten championships Tobin, who is the principal at Sparta's Helen Morgan Elementary School, said he and Jent spoke by phone Thursday night, and they both were a little surprised by the move. "He told me he wanted to sit down and talk to some key players such as Grant Hill and Steve Francis to define their responsibilities and talk about getting the team into the playoffs," said Tobin. The two have had a bond since Jent was a four-year starter for the Spartans beginning in the mid-1980s. Tobin had held the SCIL's all-time scoring record before Jent smashed the mark with 2,287 points while leading Sparta to three league titles. "I had no doubt in my mind he would be a coach someday," said Tobin. "His work ethic is second to none." Tobin said that when Jent was 14 years old and starting on varsity, the high school would hold camps for young children, and he was already teaching the ropes to future players back then. The town is abuzz after hearing the news of Jent's promotion. Sparta High School's web page has a giant red banner floating across its home page congratulating the Sparta alumnus. "He is a legend here," said Sparta Director of Athletics Pat Shea, who was not at Sparta during Jent's time. "We are all very proud of him. " "It's good to see a local guy do so well," said Sussex County Hall of Fame President Bob Hopkins. Jent's niece Courney is currently a junior on the Lady Spartans basketball team. She is the daughter of Chris' brother Eric, who was a fine athlete himself and played football for Colgate. Siblings Tim and Maureen were also fine athletes while at Sparta. "They were always nice, polite, and well behaved boys," said Maureen Hopkins, the secretary of the hall of fame. Jent, a 1998 inductee to the Sussex County Sports Hall of Fame, becomes the first person from Sussex County to be a head coach in the NBA.