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Meet The Lee's Summit Coach Who Inspired 'Ted Lasso'

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Actor Jason Sudeikis as his character Ted Lasso in center of the frame, hands outspread, addressing the soccer team he coaches.
Courtesy of Apple TV+
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The Kansas City barbecue shirt that Jason Sudeikis wears in the pilot of Ted Lasso was created by Brendan Curran, a longtime friend of Sudeikis' who lives in Lenexa.

Lee's Summit North teacher and basketball coach Donnie Campbell learned in the school hallway that he was the inspiration for the Jason Sudeikis character.

Donnie Campbell didn't start watching the Apple TV+ series until hearing a fellow teacher pass him in the hallway, saying, "There's the famous basketball coach that inspired Ted Lasso."

Campbell can see himself in Sudeikis' portrayal in "the way he tries to take each situation with his players and make it a life lesson."

Campbell remembers coaching Sudeikis at Shawnee Mission West, saying that the point guard was a good player, shooter and teammate, but "he didn't play the kind of defense that I wish he would play."

When it came to academics, however, Campbell says, "He didn't particularly like going to school . . . I wish he'd worked a little harder in the classroom."

Campbell's love of athletics came from his youth in Lyons, Kansas. "There really wasn't a lot to do," Campbell says, so he turned to playing multiple school sports.

He credits his coaches there, and later at Kansas State University — where he played both football and basketball — as his eventual career inspirations. Campbell did play professionally for a short time, and "I knew when I got out of playing that I wanted to be a teacher and a coach."

Campbell says his parents valued education highly and wanted their children to do better than they had. He remembers them telling him that teaching would mean working hard and never having any money.

"I never really was worried about making money," Campbell says. "I just wanted to try and make a difference."

And with Sudeikis, it seems Campbell did just that.

  • Donnie Campbell, math teacher and basketball coach, Lee's Summit North High School

During the interview, Up To Date host Steve Kraske mistakenly stated that "Ted Lasso" is available on Netflix. It is available through Apple+TV.

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.