It only took three years for Josh Buffington to get the high school coaching itch again.
Buffington, the former Helias boys basketball head coach, was announced Friday afternoon as the new Jefferson City Jays head coach.
"I think sometimes you have to get away from something, or take a break from something, in order to realize just how much you love it," Buffington said.
Buffington had previously coached the Crusaders for 10 seasons, leading them to three Final Four appearances. He resigned in May 2018 to spend more time with his family.
"I never stopped loving the game, there were many reasons I needed to get out of it at the time I did," Buffington said. "I don't regret that decision one bit, it's been a learning experience for my family in many phases of life. I'm grateful for the time I had away from the game of basketball."
Buffington takes over for Tony Phillips, who resigned two weeks ago after coaching the Jays for the past two seasons. Phillips helped Jefferson City to a 23-29 record, which included leading the Jays last month to the program's first district championship since 2015.
"I know they have a lot of potential to take their program to the next level," Buffington said. "They finished last year strong. Tony really made a nice run late in the season, and they were really impressive to watch from a distance."
Since stepping down as Helias coach, Buffington has spent a lot of time coaching his sons in youth basketball, both in the Knights Basketball program and on the team he co-founded, Triple Threat (T3) Hoops.
"I told someone the other day that I think I've coached more in the last three years than I did in my first 17," Buffington said. "It was a blast, I got to coach some of their buddies and build some new relationships."
Even though Buffington has been busier than ever these past three years, there was still that itch that couldn't be scratched.
"My first year out of it, I did not miss it at all," Buffington said. "I was just a little burned out, I was tired, my kids were coming up and I really wanted to coach them in youth sports.
"My second year out, I really started itching. I started getting back to some high school games. Last year, I really missed it, to the point where I thought maybe I should throw my hat into the ring next year."
The Jefferson City coaching position opened at the perfect time, Buffington said.
"This was a family decision," he said. "We wanted to stay home, but at one time we didn't know if we would be able to do that. God has blessed us with an opportunity here in our hometown."
In addition to the itch, there are other things Buffington has missed during the past three years.
"I've missed the locker rooms, I've missed the bus rides, and believe it or not, I've even missed the losses," he said. "You can learn more from a loss than you can from a win. That practice after a loss is great medicine."
Buffington is spending this weekend in Chicago while his son, Rowen, works out at an elite middle school basketball camp. But come Monday, it will be time to put on his Jays basketball hat.
"I'm ready to start working right now," Buffington said. "We're going to hit the ground running on Monday."
The timeline is not set in stone, but Buffington said he first wants to sit down and work with the Jays coaching staff. He plans to then meet with the returning players and set new expectations, as well as setting calendars for summer activities.
"Then we'll compete, it will be very skills-focused," Buffington said. "We'll see where we're at and evaluate."
Buffington has spent 14 years as a high school basketball head coach, working three years at School of the Osage and one season at New Bloomfield for a 240-144 overall record. His coaching career also includes three seasons as an assistant at Missouri Baptist.
In 10 seasons at Helias, Buffington compiled a 195-85 record with seven district championships.
"Helias gave me a great opportunity back in 2008," Buffington said. "It was an opportunity that maybe they didn't have to give me. I think we did a great job of making the most of that in our time there.
"But maybe I'm not in this seat if some of those people didn't give me the support they did 13 years ago. I'm forever grateful for that."