PORTAGE | What could be better than watching your favorite sports team while eating a delicious pizza?
“Nothing,” said Jason Hawkins, Indiana University Northwest head men’s basketball coach who opened his own pizzeria in July.
“They just go together,” he said. “Everybody loves pizza and everybody loves sports. As a coach, I like making people smile. If they smile because they have a pizza from Coaches, I feel I’ve done my job.”
Hawkins, who is in his third year as head basketball coach at IUN, said he learned to make pizza from his friend who owns Bronko’s Pizza in Crown Point. There is enough distance between the two restaurants to stop them being competitors, he said.
“He said I should go for it and taught me how to make them,” Hawkins said.
“Our pizzas are similar, but we have our own spin.”
He and his partner, Ed Graveline – who also is his assistant basketball coach – have invested nearly $40,000 in the restaurant. So far, so good, Hawkins said.
“We’ve only been open four weeks and we’re already turning a profit,” he said.
Coaches makes its pizza dough fresh daily and uses fresh ingredients for the pizza toppings, Hawkins said. The pizzeria also makes its own bread sticks that come with every pizza order. Plus, its menu includes wings, stromboli and Italian beef, ham and cheese, and sausage sandwiches.
Although the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license, Hawkins said he’s hoping to acquire on soon.
A Gary native, who has an undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University and an MBA from Ashford University, works a full schedule. Beside the restaurant and his basketball coaching, Hawkins is an instructional aide at the Charter School of the Dunes.
Although he has a busy schedule, and with the basketball season beginning soon, Hawkins isn’t concerned about the fate of his new venture.
“My staff will be able to handle it,” he said. “It’s a good staff that is capable to help run the place. I’ll pop my head in and help out when need be.”
Jordan Small Jr., a 6’9” center on his IUN team, works as a cook at Coaches.
“As his boss, I can work around his school and basketball schedule,” said Hawkins, of Crown Point. “It’s going to work out well.”
The coach is as excited about his team as he is about the pizzeria.
“We have a good group of players coming up,” Hawkins said. “We have good recruits and a lot of returners. It should be a break out year for IUN.”