Coral Springs high school athletic director, 46, dies from COVID-19

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – A beloved coach, teacher, and athletic director at J.P. Taravella High School died Thursday due to COVID-19 complications. He was 46.

On Friday, friends, faculty and especially his students remembered Jason Stein as someone with a big heart who was a mentor, a coach and a teacher.

In addition to being the athletic director, Stein’s primary job was as a physical education and special needs teacher.

“I always told him he’s like my soul brother, my brother from another mother,” said Brent Maffett, the school’s head basketball coach, who knew Stein for 12 years.

Maffett, 48, described Stein as someone who cared about people and kids. Students gravitated to him because of his personality and character, he said.

The school’s principal Mary DeArmas tweeted a message Thursday morning announcing his passing and invited anyone who wanted to take part in a Zoom gathering Thursday evening to join in to remember him. She ended with the hashtag #SteinForeverinOurHearts.

Many who knew him said “Coach Stein,” as he was known, was deeply committed and would work from early in the morning until late into the night.

In February, the boy’s varsity basketball team won their first district title in school history.

Maffett recalled how Stein wanted to be there every step of the way. Maffett remembers him asking if he could sit on the bench with him during the games.

James Guy, Taravella’s high school football coach between 2017 and 2018, said: “To him, it was about what we needed as coaches and what you can do to influence and promote the kids to not only be athletes but to become student athletes.”

Arnold Hopkins, the current track and field coach at the high school, was a former student of Stein’s. Hopkins, a freshman at Taravella in 2010, said Stein was his gym teacher for four years. It was Stein who later hired him as the boys’ track coach.

“He would come and talk to me, comfort me, make sure I was good and fix the problem and that’s what I do with my athletes now,” Hopkins said. “He helped me out with everything.”

Hopkins remembers his days as a student with Stein. “He would just look at you and say something funny.”

His students treasure a video of him dancing.

“It it didn’t matter if he had to dance, sing, rap — he had to provide some sort of entertainment,” Maffett said.

Stein, was named athletic director in 2011. Prior to that he was the school’s baseball coach. His wife, Michele, is an assistant principal at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs. He also has two daughters: Ilana, 20, a student at Florida State University, and Hailey, 15.

Jason Stein and his wife, Michele, and their two daughters. (WPLG)

A GoFundMe page has already been shared more than 2,000 times in one day and was set up to help the family financially during the immediate future in the wake of Stein’s death.

Lori Waiser, who organized the page writes: “Our hearts were shattered as we watched Jason battle for his life.   Last week Jason had shown improvement and was taken off a ventilator.  Early this week his health took a fast turn and he lost his fight.   Michele, Ilana and Hailey were by his side as he gained his wings and went straight to heaven.”

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local