Marshall Coaching Search Down To Final Four?

Marshall University has been without a coach for its men's basketball team since the school announced in March that Ron Jirsa's contract would not be renewed. Since then, many names have come and gone in the coaching search, but it appears on the brink of the NCAA Championship on Monday Marshall may be down to its own "Final Four."

MU Director of Athletics Bob Marcum spent Saturday at the Final Four, where Florida topped UCLA and Ohio State beat Georgetown to set up a re-match of the BCS Championship in Football just about 100 days ago when the Gators routed the Buckeyes for the mythical football national title. If Florida wins tonight, it would be back-to-back NCAA Division I titles for the Gators in men's basketball, the first since Duke did it in 1990 and 1991. While Florida head coach Billy Donovan will no doubt at least listen to $3.5 million dollar per year offers from Kentucky later this week (and appear at a sold-out Big Green Scholarship Dinner at Marshall on Wednesday), closer to home it appears four candidates will begin interviews on Monday or Tuesday so Marshall can make a decision this week.

One of those candidates is Donnie Jones, the associate head coach for Florida. Jones has been with Donovan since the pair were at Marshall in 1994-96 and will reportedly be in Huntington Tuesday to meet with the search committee. Rumors abounded from this weekend's Final Four that the job is Jones's to turn down (at reportedly $475,000 per year, a considerable upgade from the $240,000 paid Jirsa, including camps, radio, television, appearances, etc.). Marshall will reportedly also bring in another top assistant in Oklahoma's Mark Cline, a former player of the year at Williamson (W.Va.) High School. Former head coaches Pete Gillen, who called a number of Marshall games on CSTV the last two seasons and was the head coach at Xavier, Providence and Virgina, and Mike Jarvis, an ESPN commentator who formerly coached Boston U., George Washington and St. John's, are also being interviewed, according to unconfirmed reports.

Here are brief bios on each prospective candidate:

Donnie Jones, Florida Associate Head Coach:
Finishing his 13th year overall with Billy Donovan, Donnie Jones is in his 11th at the University of Florida after the two spent a pair of seasons together at Marshall University. He was promoted to the role of Associate Head Coach following the Gators' run to the national title in 2006. Jones is instrumental in recruiting, as well as one of the top X's and O's assistants in the country for Florida, where the Gators are 34-5 this season and going for a second consecutive National Championship (Duke was the last back-to-back winner, in 1990-1991). Jones is a former standout point guard at Pikeville College (Ky.) where he finished second in the nation in assists at the NAIA level, averaging 10.7 per game in 1988. He was selected to the Pikeville Hall of Fame in 2004.

Jones started his career in 1988-90 as an assistant coach at Pikeville College for head coach Greg White, the currently head coach at the University of Charleston and the former MU head coach (1996-2003). In 1990-92, Jones became a graduate assistant coach at Marshall University for first Dana Altman, then Dwight Freeman. He became a full-time assistant for Freeman in 1992, then joined the staff of Donovan in 1994.In 1996, he joined Donovan, John Pelphrey and Anthony Grant in leaving MU for Florida for Donovan and then in 2006, Jones became Associate Head Coach.

He played 1984-88 at Pikeville College, where he was team captain in 1988. He is the career assist leader, single-season assist leader and single-game assist record. He was elected to Pikeville College Hall of Fame, 2004. Jones attended Point Pleasant High School (W.Va.), graduating in 1984. He got his undergrad at Pikeville College in 1988 and his Master's in Sports Marketing and Management at Marshall in 1992. Born,July 7, 1966, Jones is married to the former Michelle Gibson of Salt Rock (W.Va.), just outside of Huntington. Two children including daughter, Madisyn Michelle Jones (born February 17th, 2001) abd son, Donald Isaac Jones (born Feb. 4, 2004).

Mark Cline, Oklahoma assistant coach:
No stranger to Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel, Mark Cline was the head coach's first hire upon arriving at OU, where the Sooners finished 16-15 this season, 6-10 in the Big XII.  Cline served as an assistant coach for Virginia Commonwealth under Capel. The 41-year-old Williamson, W. Va., native helped VCU compile a 61-31 (.663) record over the past three seasons that included an NCAA Tournament trip in 2003-04, his first season in Richmond.

Cline's relationship with the Capel family dates back to his days as an assistant coach at Fayetteville State (1989-93) where he served under Capel's father, Jeff Capel, Jr.  Cline helped convert the Broncos from a team that finished at the bottom of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's Southern Division to one of the top programs in the league.  He also served as the men's golf head coach at Fayetteville State and was named CIAA Golf Coach of the Year twice. He transitioned with Capel, Jr., to North Carolina A&T for the 1993-94 season, a year that saw the Aggies claim the Mid-Eastern Athletic Association championship and make an NCAA Tournament appearance.  Cline followed Capel, Jr., to Old Dominion where he spent five seasons with the Monarchs.  He helped ODU reach the NCAA Tournament in 1995 and 1997.  In 1999, the Monarchs tied a school record for wins with 25 and were rewarded with an NIT bid. After his stint at Old Dominion, Cline served four years (1999-2003) as an assistant and associate head coach at Virginia Tech.

Cline enjoyed an outstanding playing career at Wake Forest over the 1983-84 through 1986-87 seasons (the same span as Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues) and was a three-year starter.  He finished his career with 1,202 points to rank 17th on Wake's all-time list.  He averaged double figures over his final three seasons and served as a co-captain the last two.  The Demon Deacons advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight his freshman season. The two-time West Virginia High School Player of the Year who earned McDonald's, Parade and Street & Smith's high school All-America honors, shot .414 from 3-point range during his collegiate career. Cline, who graduated from Wake Forest in 1988, has a wife, Nancy, and a four-year-old daughter, Layla.

Mike Jarvis, former head coach St. John's, Boston U. and George Washington:
Mike Jarvis is a sports commentator and former NCAA basketball coach at Boston University, George Washington University, and St. John's University. He also works as a commentator for college basketball games on ESPN. His career college coaching record in over 18 seasons is 364-201 and is one of four Division I coaches to have won 100 games at three different colleges. Jarvis was born in Massachusetts and played high school basketball at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. He also coached at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, where his players included Patrick Ewing, Rumeal Robinson and current George Washington head coach Karl Hobbs. He played basketball and baseball at Northeastern University, graduating in 1968.

Jarvis became head coach at Boston University in 1985, becoming the Terriers' all-time winningest coach in five seasons with a 101-50 record (he was later overtaken by Dennis Wolff). Boston University reached the NCAA Tournament in 1988 and 1990 under Jarvis. He was hired at George Washington in 1990, leading the Colonials to three NCAA tournament appearances, including the round of 16 in the 1993 NCAA Tournament, the Colonials' best tournament performance. He coached the United States under-22 men's team in 1993. Jarvis also led the Colonials to two victories over number one ranked UMass, compiling a 143-100 record at George Washington.

After the 1998 season, Jarvis accepted the head coaching job at St. John's University after Fran Fraschilla was fired, leading the Redmen (now the Red Storm) to the Elite Eight in the 1999 NCAA Tournament and the 2000 Big East tournament championship. Following scandals, including having players arrested and a lack of success, Jarvis was fired during the 2003 season - the first ever Big East coach to be fired during the season. His final record at St. John's was 110-61 over five seasons. Jarvis now works for ESPN as a college basketball commentator, and Yahoo! Sports as their NCAA men's basketball analyst, and also works as a motivational speaker.

Pete Gillen, former head coach:
Pete Gillen is a former college basketball coach. The Brooklyn, New York native received his bachelor's degree in English Literature from Fairfield University in 1968. Gillen was an English teacher in Brooklyn before becoming a collegiate head coach. He was a basketball coach at Xavier University from 1985 to 1994, Providence College from 1994 to 1998, and the University of Virginia from 1998 to 2005. At Xavier, Gillen compiled an impressive record, taking the Musketeers to the NCAA tournament seven times and to the NIT tournament once (1994). Gillen is still the most successful coach in school history at Xavier, having won 202 games in the third-longest tenure ever for a XU coach.

Following his success at Xavier, Gillen was hired at Providence to replace Rick Barnes, who had left to coach Clemson University. He followed PC's 1994 Big East title with two trips to the NIT before the Friar's 1997 run to the Elite Eight, upsetting Marquette and Duke and beating Chattanooga before losing in overtime to eventual national champion Arizona. Following a tough 1997-98 year, where he lost four starters (three to graduation, and one, God Shammgod, to the NBA draft), Gillen moved on to Virginia, replacing Jeff Jones at Virginia, who resigned on March 15, 1998 after eight years as the Cavaliers' head coach. Gillen's seven Virginia teams compiled an overall record of 118 - 93 and competed in five postseason tournaments. The Cavaliers participated in the 2001 NCAA Tournament and in the National Invitation Tournament four times.

Gillen is currently a college basketball commentator for the cable channel CSTV as well as radio color on Westwood One. He is famous for his thick Brooklyn accent, and his comment after Providence College's defeat of Duke in the 1997 NCAA second round in Charlotte: "Certainly Duke is Duke, they're on TV more than Leave it to Beaver reruns." Gillen was born June 20, 1947.

Coaching information and bios from Florida Gators sports information, Oklahoma Sooners sports information and Wikipedia.

Herd Haven Top Stories