Marshall#8217;s got a basketball Jones

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Donnie Jones has come home.

But more importantly, Jones is bringing with him a resume that could help restore the Marshall basketball program back to a winning status after five straight losing seasons, four under Ron Jirsa who was dismissed at the end of last season.

The Florida Gators associate head coach was announced Saturday as the Thundering Herd new men’s basketball coach.

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“To put on this green jacket on especially the week of the Masters it’s special,” said Jones who served as an assistant at Marshall under Billy Donovan and Dwight Freeman.

“It’s been a great journey. We left here and we’ve been at Florida the last 11 years. It’s been a great time, but once I got a chance to come back and visit the people at Marshall, I told my wife how excited I was.”

Marshall athletic director Bob Marcum said it was an added bonus to hire a coach who is also from West Virginia.

“It’s always a special time when you can welcome back someone to the state where they grew up. It’s special that (wife) Michelle and Donnie can come home,” Marcum said.

As Donovan’s right-hand man, Jones was instrumental in recruiting and building a program at Florida that won back-to-back NCAA championships including a win over Ohio State last Monday.

During his tenure as an assistant, the Gators have a school-record nine NCAA appearances, four SEC East Division titles and three SEC tournament titles.

Jones envisions similar success for the Herd.

“We had chance to build something at Florida that’s pretty special. I think we have those kind of people here at Marshall. Coach Jirsa is a very good man and we’re happy for his success and we want to build on that,” said Jones.

Not only is Jones bringing Marshall a playing style similar to Florida, he also wants a similar attitude.

“The style of play we re going play is very exciting. We’re going to press, we’re going to run. The biggest thing we have to change right now is the mentality.” Said Jones.

“We’ll talk about separating our selves from the rest of the teams. We went to the national championship at Florida not just because of talent, but because of attitude. We separated ourselves from other teams.”

Marshall was just 13-19 last season and loses three seniors including two starters from its 12-man roster.

“I think we have a good nucleus of players and we have five or six scholarships to bring people in. I think we can have success real quick. The community is starved for success. We have to set our goals high. If you believe it and work hard you can achieve it.”

Jones talked about watching the movie “We Are Marshall” and how both he and his wife got caught up in the emotions of the film that brought them to tears.

“We had a chance to see the movie and we cried like babies. We knew what it meant to the people here. We are Marshall. I know the tradition we have at Marshall from growing up here,” said Jones.

Governor Joe Manchin attended the press conference and also expressed his joy that Marshall was able to hire a product produced in the state.

“I’m so proud to have one of our own coming home. They mean so much to Marshall University. They’re going to take us to the next level,” Manchin said.