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De La Salle boys basketball hires former WLN coach Jon Djokaj to replace retired Greg Esler

By: SCOTT M. BURNSTEIN, September 18, 2020, 3:18 pm

Warren De La Salle got itself a diamond in the ruff to replace the legendary Greg Esler as the school’s new boys basketball coach by hiring Jon Djokaj, one of the state’s true up-and-comers in the sideline ranks. 

The 38-year old Djokaj was the coach at Walled Lake Northern the last three years. His 2019 Knights won the LVC. 

“You see the tradition, what the De La Salle athletic program stands for, what Coach Esler did for basketball in Macomb County and the Catholic League and you can’t not be in awe,” Djokaj said. “Getting the chance to be a head coach in the CHSL Central and at a school like De La Salle was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I’m just looking forward to the preparation, putting in the work, building the relationships with the players and the community. That’s how you sustain what Coach Esler did here. His teams defined dedication and we will as well. I’m a competitor at heart and there’s no better place to compete than in the Catholic League.”

Djokaj has a reputation as a talented tactician with the clipboard and a well-liked players coach, mixing two of the most important attributes to finding success in the job. Before taking the Northern gig in 2018, he was integral in the development of future pros Yante Maten, Richaud Pack and Paris Bass in assistant stints with Bloomfield Hills Lahser and Birmingham Seaholm, respectively.

On the AAU circuit coaching with the REACH Legends, he’s smoothed out rough edges in the games of future Big Ten players such as Tre Williams (Purdue), Thomas Kithier (Michigan State) and Gabe Brown (Michigan State).

Esler retired in the spring after 25 seasons heading the Pilots hoops program, a span where he posted 22 district titles, four Catholic League crowns and two trips to the final four. Before getting to DLS, Esler guided St. Clair Shores to a Class B state championship in 1994. He left the bench with a career record of 425-199.