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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Donnie Jones introduced as new UCF men’s basketball coach (I never saw this one, ed.)

Donnie Jones introduced as new UCF men’s basketball coach

Central Florida Future
By William Perry
Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Behind his slicked back hair and confident and composed demeanor, Donnie Jones is a man with a vision.

UCF’s new men’s basketball coach assures no longer will it be a matter of if the program reaches its potential, but when.

UCF, deemed by some as a sleeping giant, won’t be sleeping much longer with Jones in the room. He plans on waking the giant up.

Jones was formally introduced as the school’s new men’s basketball coach today just a day after the 43-year-old West Virginia native was hired away from in-conference foe Marshall.

The announcement comes two weeks after UCF decided not to retain the long-tenured Kirk Speraw, who led the Knights for 17 seasons. The swift turnaround was made easy when UCF Director of Athletics Keith Tribble became quickly convinced that he had found the next coach to lead the men’s basketball program.

“He has the core values of what we believe in with academics first and the opportunity to win championships and he had a blueprint for success in not only his years at UF, but also what he had done at Marshall,” Tribble said. “So, looking at that and knowing where we want to go with the program, I just knew that he would be the right guy.”

Jones was coming off a 2009-2010 campaign where he led Marshall to one of its best seasons in school history with a mark of 24-10 and despite being the head coach of the Thundering Herd for just three seasons, decided to leave behind his successes to be a part of something much bigger in Orlando.

“It was a hard decision,” said Jones who compiled a 55-41 record with the Herd. “I had great relationships there [at Marshall], love those people there but I was real excited about the vision of where they’re going here, …the commitment was something that really excited me. I think that there are untapped resources in the state for recruiting. I just think there are a lot of abilities here in this job.”

Prior to taking the helm at Marshall in 2007, Jones spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach under Billy Donovan at Florida where he helped lead the Gators to three Final Four appearances and two national championships.

The recruiting ties that Jones built up as a Florida assistant made him an attractive hire for UCF, but not only did he have ties in-state, he also had them all across the country.

“Anytime you have ties in your recruiting area that’s a plus, …but having recruiting ties across the country is probably more impressive and I found out he had that,” Tribble said.

But what impressed Tribble was Jones’s his plan for success with stepping up the recruitment of top-level talent, his short and long term goals for the program and the amount of people that knew what type of person he was.

And though it was a surprise to see Jones come from within C-USA, junior guard A.J. Rompza sees the move as a plus for the Knights.

“He’s someone who knows the players already in the conference and he knows the coaches already,” Rompza said. “I’m just really excited to play for him. I can’t wait.

“I just want to get started already.”

Though some players aren’t sure of what is in store, forward A.J. Tyler is already familiar with Jones. Jones scouted Tyler and also coached Tyler’s brother when he as an assistant at Florida.

“He makes you feel comfortable and he’s someone you can easily talk to,” Tyler said. “He really recruits hard and shows you the passion that makes you want to play for that program but it also shows that he’s a good guy. He’s the type of guy you want to be around and the type of guy you want to play for.”

But heading into his senior season, Tyler isn’t worried about having to transition into a new style of play. He’s ready to do what Jones wants and is looking forward to it.

Jones will employ an up-tempo style that emphasizes pressure on both ends of the floor, a style Rompza is rather used to.

“I’ve been playing that way my whole life, the way Jones will want us to play” Rompza said. “Being small, I used to go up and down [the floor] in high school. It’s something that I’m used to and I think it will be an easy transition, if anything.”

Though only time will tell as to how quickly Jones can build something at UCF, one thing is for certain, he sure has an idea of how to do it.

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