Heading South

Published 1:59 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— Donnie Jones hopes the Sunshine State is even brighter the second time around.

Jones was an assistant coach under Billy Donovan when the Florida Gators won back-to-back national championships.

Jones is going back to Florida after accepting the men’s basketball head coaching job with the Central Florida Knights following three seasons as the Marshall Thundering Herd head coach.

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Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick confirmed Jones’ move to Central Florida and offered his thanks.

“I want to thank coach Jones for his service and we appreciate what he has accomplished in his time here at Marshall,” said Hamrick.

Jones, a 43-year-old native of Point Pleasant, compiled a 55-41 record in three seasons at Marshall. The Herd was 24-10 this season, tied for third place in Conference USA and reached the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, the program’s first postseason appearance since 1988.

Marshall turned down an invitation to the NIT.

The success Jones compiled at Marshall impressed UCF athletic director Keith Tribble who issued a statement to the media.

“We are thrilled to welcome Donnie and his family to Orlando and the UCF athletics community. Donnie has a vision for this program that includes attracting top-notch student-athletes and competing for championships. He is the right coach to lead UCF men’s basketball to the next level,” said Tribble.

Jones’ contract reportedly is a three-year deal worth $5 million or $1.6 million a year. Jones signed a five-year extension before the season that paid him $400,000 plus incentives up to $250,000. His contract had a $500,000 buyout clause.

Hamrick said a national search will begin immediately for a replacement.

“There will be no public comment during the search in order to protect the integrity of the process,” said Hamrick. “We have invested a great deal in our basketball program and we will find the right person to lead our program.”

In the fall of 2009, Marshall completed a new $1.7 million basketball locker room and plans an additional $1 million in renovations to the Cam Henderson Center for next season that includes a new scoreboard, lighting system, LED signage, instant replay equipment and other improvements to the facility.