Jeff Jones wanted chemistry.
Karen Barefoot wanted unity.
Both got what they wanted in the last two months as one put together the coaching staff for Old Dominion University’s men’s basketball team and the other reassembled the women’s basketball staff.
While they took different paths to get to the staffs of today, the one consistency is familiarity.
Jones, taking over for departed Blaine Taylor, retained one member of Taylor’s staff in John Richardson. He brought with him from American University two of his former assistants, Lamar Barrett and Kieran Donahue, although Donahue will serve the role of director of basketball operations here at ODU.
Then Jones reached back into his past to bring 10-year NBA veteran Bryant Stith onto the staff.
Stith, who became the University of Virginia’s all-time leading scorer while playing for Jones in the early 1990s, just finished leading Brunswick High to three straight state Group AA titles. It was time for him to move on to bigger and better things, particularly since Brunswick is dropping to Group A this coming season.
“I’m really excited about this staff,” Jones said. “There are a lot of positives and there seems early on to be great chemistry. Not everyone on a staff needs to like one another. The key is working well together and we do.”
While all the others have a strong Hampton Roads/Virginia/eastern North Carolina connection -- Barrett played at Franklin High and Elizabeth City; Richardson grew up in eastern North Carolina, also played at Elizabeth City and coached high school ball on the Peninsula -- Donahue brings a different aspect to the group.
He’s a New Yorker.
“He’s the contrarian, always willing to express the opposite, minority opinion or position on something,” Jones said. “And I like that about him. Plus, he knows how I like to run a basketball program and he’s doing all the detail-oriented stuff that needs to get done the right way.”
As Jones explained, there are a lot of ways to coach basketball, just as there are “a lot of ways to skin a cat.”
“Many times it isn’t that there’s a right or wrong way to teach or coach this game,” Jones said. “It’s about being in agreement on the way your staff is going to teach it and coach it.”
The always energetic Barefoot was ecstatic about the fact that she’d added Trina Patterson and Jim Corrigan to returning assistant coach Richard Fortune.
Patterson left a very strong impression on Barefoot years ago. Barefoot was playing on Boo Williams Elite AAU girls team and Patterson was helping coach the squad right before taking the job as William and Mary’s head coach in the early 1990s.
“She pulled me over to the side one day and told me to go get knee pads,” Barefoot said. “She told me that wearing them would emphasize to coaches who were looking at me and recruiting me that I was a hustle player willing to go all out and scrap for a loose ball.”
Barefoot and Patterson maintained the relationship over the years.
“Wherever I ended up, Trina would send me a handwritten note of congratulations,” Barefoot said. “That means something.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Monarchs get Patterson after a successful stint as Stanford’s assistant coach in charge of East Coast recruiting. Alas, Patterson is a Peninsula product and wanted to come home. What a catch.
And then there’s Corrigan. When Barefoot was an assistant under Wendy Larry years ago, Corrigan was an assistant for Taylor.
“We were always talking Xs and Os,” Barefoot said. “Jim has a great basketball mind and I have tons of respect for him.”
Corrigan had served as ODU’s men’s interim coach after Taylor was relieved with weeks left this past season.
“What he did in holding the program together and getting the team to play well down the stretch was impressive,” Barefoot said. “And he’s the reason we beat Northeastern (70-67) at home late in the season. Jim suggested a couple little tweaks in what we were doing and they were the difference in a close game.”
Patterson and Corrigan also told Barefoot something that meant a lot to her: They want to be here a while and make a difference as ODU dives into Conference USA for the first time.
“Both of them told me they want to be a part of this,” Barefoot said.
Meaning the staff is on page, which often makes a world of difference.