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Jason Sudeikis' Shawnee Mission West basketball coach inspires Emmy-winning performance

Donnie Campbell, the real life 'Ted Lasso'
Donnie Campbell
Posted at 5:37 AM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 06:57:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — "Ted Lasso" had a big night at the Primetime Emmy Awards last week, including wins for Best Comedy Series and Best Leading Actor in a Comedy Series for Kansas City’s Jason Sudeikis.

The important mentor in the actor's high school days is the inspiration behind that award-winning performance.

“As I watched Jason, he’s a lot better acting like me than I'm acting like me," Donnie Campbell said.

Campbell would know. Before Sudeikis was playing an American football coach now at the helm of an English football club, he was learning from Coach Campbell on the Shawnee Mission West basketball team.

“I remember him being a little quirky. He was a good basketball player. He loved playing basketball. Left-handed guard," Coach Campbell remembered. “Liked to put a little more pizzazz into things than his coach liked. Always wanted him to play more defense than what he did, he liked to play offense more. There's your acting side of it, right?”

Now at Lee’s Summit North, Campbell still coaches basketball. He’s been doing it for more than 30 years.

He followed his former player’s path to fame, and when he started watching "Ted Lasso," the script jumped off the screen.

“You’re as nervous as a long-tail cat and a roomful of rocking chairs, you know, I definitely said that," Campbell said.

He knew Sudeikis was taking pages out of his playbook.

“And how he motivated him to make the extra pass. I definitely know that I mentioned that a lot when I coached," Campbell recalled.

He spent two years coaching Sudeikis and is seeing the seeds he planted then bloom now.

“We really don't know what difference or what impact we made on these kids tell five, 10, 15, 20 years. That's what really matters and that's why we teach and coach," Campbell said.

That hit home in Sudeikis' hometown after his Emmy win in Los Angeles.

“Just really proud," Campbell said. "Just really proud of him and glad that in some way I helped him and that he’s successful, and what’s most important too is that he’s a really good person. Kansas City needs to stick their chest out a little bit here because he gives back so much to the community.”