Donnie Jones Is New MU Basketball Coach

Donnie Jones was introduced Saturday as the new coach of the Thundering Herd men's basketball team. The former associate head coach at the University of Florida leaves the Gators after back to back National Championships to take Marshall job, replacing Ron Jirsa who was fired on March 12. Jones is a native of Point Pleasant, W.Va. who coached at MU as an assistant and has a Master's from Marshall.

"It's nice that Donnie and Michelle have a chance to come home as native West Virginian's," said Bob Marcum, MU's Director of Athletics to open the remarks. He was followed by Marshall University President, Dr. Stephen Kopp, who introduced the Governor of the state of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who came to the press conference. "There is something special about coming home. Salt Rock and Point Pleasant, that's home," said Manchin of Michelle Jones and Donnie Jones' hometowns which are very near Huntington. "We know your going to take (Marshall) to the next level and you have our full support."

Donnie Jones met with members of the local media Saturday morning for the first time, in the Big Green Room at the Henderson Center. photos by Greg Perry/HI staff

"There is always speculation in the press about the candidates, but it was very deliberative, very precise and the committee did a great job," said Dr. Kopp. "We were looking for a high energy person who could motivate the community, the team and the university. We wanted someone who could motivate not just on the court but in the classroom. What style of play, how would he blend in? I was also interested in the program he came from. I'm proud to say we found that person. He wants to be here at Marshall University and Huntington, W.Va. Welcome home, Donnie Jones."

Jones slipped on the ceremonial green jacket, given to all new Marshall coaches, and began his first press conference as the new Marshall men's basketball coach. "It's a great honor to put on this green jacket, especially on the weekend of the Masters. It's been an emotional week for me. I got very excited. Saw a lot of familiar faces at the Big Green Dinner and get a chance to come back to a place where it all began for me. The thing that makes this place special is the people. I'm fortunate to be here today. What we want to do is build on what they already did here. Ron Jirsa was a good man, he brought in some good players and three of them are here today. I wish Ron the best as he gets ready to get a job at Minnesota and I wish him the best." Attending the press conference were Adam Williams, Markel Humphrey and Robbie Jackson.

"Our style will be exciting. We'll press and run. We have to change the mentality. It will start in the classroom and off the court. We have five scholarships and we'll look at adding those five guys so we can get some depth and play our style."

"We watched the We Are Marshall movie, sat in the theater and cried like a baby. There is no reaseon we can't have the same success as Marshall has had in the past and do it quickly. We were here for the sold-out Henderson Center for the high school game and know we can bring that energy to Marshall. We will be part of the community. We have great coaches in football and women's basketball here. We Are Marshall is the mentality."

"I have been at a great place, surrounded by great people. All the people have the same mentality...we. I think we have that here at Marshall and can build on that. The community has that. We need to pick up these players and make them dream again. They will be someone we can be proud of. It's great to be home. This has been a dream of mine, as silly as that might seem. I'm blessed. I could see myself here for a long, long time. We will make this program fun, exciting and make the Henderson Center the toughest place in college basketball to play."

Jones has played a key role in UF's recruiting and player development that has led to a school-record nine consecutive NCAA appearances, four Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles, three SEC Tournament titles and the school's first national titles in 2006 and 2007. The 1999 and 2000 teams made the first back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in school history and the 2000 squad made the first-ever appearance in the National Championship game. Combined with UF's Final Four run and national title in 2007, the Gators are the only team to play for the national title twice, let alone three times, in the 2000s. The 2005 squad made history, becoming the first UF team to win the SEC Tournament. The Gators went 261-103 (.717) during Jones' 11-year stint in Gainesville and have posted more 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances (nine each) than they did in the 77-year history of the program prior to this staff's arrival. Jones has been responsible for helping the Gators attract some of the most accomplished recruiting classes in college basketball. Since 1998, the Gators have signed nine McDonald's High School All-Americans while boasting consensus top five recruiting classes four of the past eight years.

University of Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan had this to say about Jones accepting the Marshall coaching position. "I've got a lot of strong feelings about Marshall, I admire and respect the passion for basketball among its fans," Donovan said. "Marshall is getting a great coach, a fantastic recruiter and an even better person, and in addition, a native of West Virginia to lead the program. Marshall has hired a first class coach in Donnie Jones."

Jones served on the Marshall staff for six years. He was a graduate assistant at Marshall in 1990 and earned his Master's Degree in Sports Management in 1992. He was then promoted to assistant coach and was involved in all aspects of the basketball program, assisting with scouting, the conditioning program, film exchange, on-floor coaching and serving as Thundering Herd's Summer Camp Coordinator. Prior to his arrival at Marshall in the early `90's, Jones worked for two years as an assistant coach at Pikeville College (Kentucky), his alma mater. While at Pikeville, Jones was responsible for scouting, recruiting, pre-season conditioning, on-floor coaching and the school's summer basketball camps. Jones also worked in an administrative capacity in the admissions office while at Pikeville.

Jones, 40, earned his Bachelor's Degree in Business Education from Pikeville in 1988 after setting several school records during a stellar basketball career. He set school records for most assists in a game (21), season (276) and in a career (513). Jones served as the team's captain as a senior, finishing second in the nation in the NAIA with 10.7 assists per game. During his career, Jones played with two-time NAIA All-American Todd May, who averaged 40.1 points per game, and helped Pikeville to its first 20-win season in 11 years. Jones was inducted into the Pikeville Hall of Fame in the summer of 2004. Jones is married to the former Michelle Gibson of Salt Rock, West Virginia. They have two children, a daughter, Madisyn, born on Feb. 17, 2001 and a son, Donald, born on Feb. 4, 2004.

Coaching Experience: 1988-90 Assistant Coach, Pikeville College (Ky.)
1990-92 Graduate Assistant Coach, Marshall University
1992-96 Assistant Coach, Marshall University
1996-06 Assistant Coach, University of Florida
2006-07 Associate Head Coach, University of Florida
2007- Head Coach, Marshall University
Playing Experience: 1984-88 Pikeville College Playing Honors: Team Captain, 1988 Career Assist Leader Single-season Assist Leader Single-game Assist Record Pikeville Hall of Fame, 2004
Education: Point Pleasant High School, 1984 Pikeville College, 1988 Marshall University, 1992
Date of Birth: July 7, 1966
Family: Married to the former Michelle Gibson of Salt Rock, West Virginia Daughter, Madisyn Michelle Jones (born February 17th, 2001) Son, Donald Isaac Jones (born Feb. 4, 2004).

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