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Minium: Mike Jones is Not Just 'One of Us," He's Also the Right Guy to Revive ODU Men's Basketball

Cam Easton

NORFOLK, Va. – Mike Jones' introduction as Old Dominion's new men's head basketball coach Friday morning had the look and feel of a pep rally.
Jones and his wife, Stayce, marched into the Big Blue Room at Chartway Arena, hand in hand, along with a plethora of ODU officials as the Monarch band played the school fight song. Several hundred ODU officials and fans cheered, and when Jones finished talking, he was accorded a robust standing ovation.
Monarch Nation, it appears, very much approves of Jones, and well it should.
From the start of a very quick coaching search, Jones loomed in my mind as the top candidate. Of course, I had, and still have, no idea of who else might have applied. But like many ODU fans, I felt the University needed someone solidly anchored in the Monarch tradition,  someone for whom this would not just be a job, but a calling. 
Jones has all the credentials, from coaching and recruiting to developing players. He has nearly two decades experience as a head coach and has been an assistant in both the ACC and Big Ten.
And  as Dr. Wood Selig, ODU's director of athletics said during Friday's event, "He's one of us."
Indeed, he is. Jones an ODU alumnus who hails from the very best of times during the university's storied basketball history.

ODU hired a search firm that vetted dozens of candidates. Several were interviewed. The search process was scheduled to continue well into next week. 
After Jones' first interview with Selig and ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., they huddled to discuss the other candidates that they planned to interview. "But the more we talked about it, the more we thought, 'why do we need to look further?'" Selig said. "We already had the right guy."
So, Jones was asked to attend another Zoom interview on Thursday at 7:30 in the morning. It was just three days after Jeff Jones announced his retirement from ODU.
Mike Jones was stunned when toward the end of an hour-long discussion, Selig offered him the job.
Jones' reaction said it all.
He began to cry, and before Selig could say anything else, Jones said: "I accept."

"This is the only (college) head coaching job I've ever wanted," Jones said during the press conference. "I've always wanted this job."
Jones' first performance as ODU's head coach, behind a microphone, was remarkable. He spoke with passion about his love for ODU and his desire "to get this program back where it deserves to be."
He's a charismatic, likable guy who speaks remarkably well and from his heart. There was no prepared speech or even note cards.
He began by saying: "I want to start by just saying thank you to God. I prayed for this day for a very long time.
"My wife and I believe in speaking things into existence. And being given the opportunity to be here in front of you today is truly, truly a dream come true.
"As soon as we got on the plane this morning, we both got the chills. I don't think words here can ever relay how excited we are."
He waxed poetically about ODU's facilities. The 8,500-seat Chartway Arena is the finest facility in the Sun Belt and the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center gives him everything he needs to recruit good players.
And in spite of finishing last in the Sun Belt Conference this season, ODU led the league in attendance. There's no question that ODU has by far the most loyal fan base in the league and one of the best among all mid-major schools.
"I know how passionate the fan base is here and I know how much this community, this program, this school deserve to have a winner," he said.
"I am going to do everything I can to make sure each and every day, each and every practice, each and every workout, we are working towards that goal.

"But while doing that I also want to make sure that all of our young men are people you can be proud of and want to cheer for. It is so much easier for a fan base to root for young people they enjoy being around and that they like.
"You're always going be judged by wins and losses. I understand that. I embrace that.
"But I also made a commitment to every family that allowed their young men to come play for me that I am always going to have their son's best interest, that I am always going to care about him as if he were mine, and no matter what, that their son could always count on me to have his back."
Mike Jones met with Jeff Jones after the press conference. They have known each other for decades.
"I tried to hire Mike twice here at ODU, but we couldn't afford him," Jeff Jones said.
"I spent a lot of time talking with coach Jones just picking his brain," Mike Jones said. "He's going to help me so much. I'm incredibly indebted to him."
Mike Jones said his top immediate tasks was to meet with the team and current coaches and then get a new coaching staff in place. He isn't sure how many players will want to return, and with the transfer portal opening in two weeks, recruiting needs to begin as soon as possible.
He returned College Park for practice on Friday and was scheduled to recruit for ODU at a high school tournament in Washington. Instead, he returned to Norfolk Friday evening and was introduced to the 4,342 fans at the ODU women's basketball game, which gave him a standing ovation.
He responded with emotion. He kept touching his heart to say thank you.

Mike Jones acknowledges cheers from the crowd at Friday's ODU women's basketball game. 
Selig said he returned so that he could meet with the men's basketball players and coaches when they returned from a game at Georgia Southern at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. He was there at Chartway Arena to greet them before the son rose.
"I'm anxious to get started," he said in what was clearly an understatement.
"I'm ready go," he said. "And I could not be more excited."
Jones is clearly a winner – his high school team was 30-0 his senior year. While at ODU, the Monarchs won 20 or more games three times.
Jones is part of one of the biggest moments in ODU basketball history. On, St. Patrick's Day in 1995, the Monarchs stunned Big East champion Villanova, the No. 3 seed, 89-81 in three overtimes of the NCAA Tournament.
Jones had 19 points and eight rebounds in 52 minutes of that epic battle, a game that any ODU fan who's seen it will never forget.
After leaving ODU, Jones played professionally in America and overseas, including the International Basketball Association, where he was an all-league choice.
He played in Portugal, Finland, Hong Kong and the Dominion Republic before returning to the Washington D.C. area as an assistant coach at DeMatha Catholic High School, his Hyattsville, Maryland alma mater. When legendary coach Morgan Wooten stepped down, he took over as head coach.

 Mike Jones and Wood Selig at Friday's press conference.

Jones went 511-119 at DeMatha, but perhaps more importantly, served for decades as a coach in USA Basketball. He's won gold medals and coached dozens of teams and, in the process developed extensive recruiting contacts across the nation.
He coached the last three seasons at Virginia Tech and Maryland, a tenure in which he proved he can be a master recruiter.
"If you look at the rosters of Virginia Tech and Maryland, they all have Mike Jones' fingerprints all over them," Selig said.
Nine players he coached at DeMatha have played in the NBA, including the No. 1 draft picks in 2015 and 2017.
And he will bring a style of basketball to ODU that will be entertaining.

 Mike Jones and his wife, Stayce, walk into the Big Blue Room. 

"We knew that we wanted a style of play that would be fan friendly," Selig said. "Fans want to see fast-paced basketball that doesn't sacrifice on defense.
"He recruits athletes who can run and shoot and play defense."
Jones offered much praise for Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young, who coaxed him to leave DeMatha for Blacksburg three years ago.
"There was no application process. He offered me the job," Jones said.
Jones has turned down many college coaching offers over the years. That's largely because not only was he comfortable at DeMatha, perhaps the best high school coaching job in the nation, but because most everyone wanted to hire him as a recruiter, not necessarily as a coach.
Young promised him a big role in coaching and developing players. And in his first year in Blacksburg, the Hokies won their first ACC Tournament title.
"If that does not happen, if I don't get the job at Virginia Tech, then I'm not standing here in front of you today," Jones said. "I'm so thankful to Mike Young."
This is Jones' first year coaching at Maryland, which plays in next week's Big Ten Tournament.

 Wood Selig and President Brian O. Hemphill., PhD., had much to smile about. 

As far as Jones is concerned, at age 50, this is his last job.
"There is where I want to be," he said on stage Friday morning. "I do not have any aspiration to say, 'let's be good for a couple of years and then move on.' My agent yells at me when I say that.
"But I am a Monarch. I am proud to be a Monarch.
"I cannot wait to be on the sidelines, coaching at Chartway. I can't wait to be able to look up and not see an empty seat in the building.
"You guys are going to proud of the team that we put on the court. And I can't wait to do that for you guys."
And then, as he was about to leave the stage, he looked at his wife, and said, "Before I forget, 'Babe, thank you very much.'"
When he stepped off the stage, dozens waited for him. Carol Hudson, the long-time sports information director for ODU who retired a few years ago, was the first to greet him with a bear hug. "Welcome home," said Hudson with emotion.
Hudson said it reminded him of the time a few decades ago when ODU alumnus Oliver Purnell was named ODU's coach.

Former teammates Mario Mullen, David Harvey, Kevin Larkin and Kevin Swann all attended on short notice. Harvey made the drive from Richmond, where he teaches and is an assistant basketball coach.
"I heard him say he's been praying for this for a long time," Harvey said. "But he's not the only one. His teammates, many alumni, have all been praying for this.
"It's a surreal moment. I'm excited for him. I'm excited for the program. He's prepared for this in so many ways."
Harvey was Jones' roommate on the road. He had nine points, nine rebounds and three steals in that victory over Villanova 29 years ago.
That game was the upset of the 1995 NCAA Tournament, and it lives on at Click below if you want to relive an old memory.
Video of ODU's 1995 Victory Over Villanova
And for new memories, come out to Chartway Arena the next few seasons.
Mike Jones is not only one of us, not only a Monarch, not only a guy who's prayers have been answered. He is the right guy to rebuild this program, to get the Monarchs in the upper division of the Sun Belt Conference, and back into the NCAA Tournament.

Minium is ODU's Senior Executive Writer for Athletics. Contact him at or follow him  on TwitterFacebook or Instagram