When I heard the news, I was as taken back as anybody.
Jeff Jones wasn’t a name I’d heard when talking about who may be Old Dominion University’s next men’s basketball coach. In fact, I think I heard everybody’s name but that of Jeff Jones.
Yes, it caught me by surprise. I have no doubt it caught you by surprise as well.
For the past 13 years, Jones had been the head coach at American University, a school that is fifth banana at best in the college basketball landscape that is the D.C. Metro area. Ahead of American there are Georgetown (which has won an NCAA title), Maryland (which has won an NCAA title), George Mason (which has made the Final Four) and George Washington (which at least is named after the nation’s first president).
American University, meanwhile, is an athletic program without much of a history. In fact, its only brushes with fame – trips to the NCAA Tournament – came in 2008 and 2009 under Jones’ guidance.
American University is a tough place to play Division I athletics. It’s not the prettiest campus and it has a lot of competition in the general vicinity. And yet, Jones won there.
That’s when I thought: Why not Jeff Jones? I mean, there was a time when he was a highly respected young coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference, taking Virginia to the NCAA’s Elite Eight, beating schools like Kansas and Duke and winning an NIT. You look at a guy like Jones and figure he will one day be a 500-game winner.
Why not win that 500th at ODU? If he could succeed at a place like American which plays in a gym which seats about 3,400, what will he be able to do with the resources ODU offers? There are 8,400-plus seats waiting at the Constant Center and every coach before him in the last three decades has had a successful run at some point.
Why not become a force in Conference USA? Jones knows how to coach and knows how to win. He came from a winning family (his father led Kentucky Wesleyan to a Division II national title back in the 1970s). He’s coached and recruited at the highest level there is.
"Coaching is not something I do. Coaching is who I am," he said. "Coaching is in my blood. Coaching is something I love, it's a passion."
He showed legitimate excitement at the press conference where he was introduced as ODU’s 13th head coach. The only thing I see possibly going wrong is that whole numbers thing. Jones is the 13th head coach at ODU. He comes here after spending the last 13 seasons at American. I know there are ODU fans reading this blog thinking that and feeling the hex. Get over it. It’s just a number.
And besides, what struck me was the letters, not the numbers. Particularly the letter C.
"We want to win on the court, we want to win in the classroom, we want to win in the community," Jones said. "Just me standing up here saying we want to do those things isn't going to make it happen. I understand that winning is a process."
Court. Classroom. Community. Sounds like a plan.
Marianne Stanley, household names in women’s college basketball in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were honored at Tuesday night’s women’s national championship game. Back in the day, they were part of ODU’s two AIAW national titles.
The AIAW as a whole was honored as the organization that created the foundation and footprint for today’s women’s game. And Stanley’s place in the game is huge. She recruited three of the game’s all-time greats, bringing Lieberman and Anne Donovan to ODU and recruiting Lisa Leslie after she moved to Southern Cal.
Stanley was also the first individual to win national titles as a player and a coach, having won a title while playing at Immaculata.
Lieberman? She was just the first two-time Wade Trophy winner as national player of the year.
I threw out an invitation to the ODU golf team for any of them to make picks for this week’s Masters. Who answered the call? Senior Tom Wilde, who happens to be a reigning all-Colonial Athletic Association golfer for the Monarchs.
Wilde was kind enough to enthusiastically wax poetically, but the heck if I’m going to let you read everything he wrote, because he’s a fairly good writer and I don’t want to be shown up on my own blog.
Anyway, on to his picks.
“Tiger Woods is the favorite to win the tournament based on current form and previous performances. His ability to overcome adversity during a round of golf is far beyond what most humans are capable of, not to mention he already has three consecutive wins under his belt this year, a number most PGA Tour players strive for in a lifetime.
“Justin Rose, my fellow countryman, is another one to watch based on current form. With a number of top finishes throughout 2013 and a preference of hitting the ball right to left, he is a clear contender and a formidable opponent when going up against the likes of Tiger.
“Matt Kuchar, a player that always has a smile on his face, is another good pick. His relaxed attitude and impressive record in the majors over the last few years puts him the firmly in top three contenders. If he doesn’t end up winning, you can guarantee his name won’t be far from the top of the leader board if he plays to his potential.
“One certainty: This tournament never fails to entertain.”
OK, I was going to pick Rory McIlroy. I might rethink that now.
Thank you, Tom. And … If you don’t think it pays to answer the call when Inside the Monarchy makes a request, here’s something interesting: Wilde shot a 1-under 69 Tuesday in the final round of the Wyoming Cowboy Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz. It stands as his best round of the spring season.
That’s called karma.
It was ODU’s last round of the regular season. The Monarchs head Texarkana, Texas, April 22-24 for the Conference USA championships.