Tony Jones is staying put

Donnie Jones' home-state advantage was a bit too much for Tony Jones to overcome. That's why Tony will be an assistant coach at Tennessee next winter, instead of head basketball coach at Marshall University.

Tony Jones, the Vols' ace recruiter, interviewed last Thursday for the Thundering Herd head coaching vacancy created by the recent firing of Ron Jirsa. UT's associate head coach lost out, however, to Florida's associate head coach, whose strong ties to Marshall proved decisive.

Donnie Jones, who grew up 45 minutes away in Point Pleasant, W.V., joined the Marshall staff as a graduate assistant in 1990. He was a full-time aide there for four years – the last two under Billy Donovan – then followed Donovan to Florida in 1996. Jones has continued to recruit West Virginia and still holds basketball camps in the state each summer.

With Tennessee coming off consecutive seasons of 22-8 in 2005-06 and 24-11 in 2006-07, it was inevitable that schools looking for new coaches would consider members of the Vol staff.

Sure enough, Iowa recently inquired about UT head man Bruce Pearl only to be rebuffed. Marshall showed great interest in Tony Jones before settling on his Florida counterpart.

The fact Jones will remain on the Big Orange staff no doubt has Vol fans cheering. One of the premier recruiters in all of college basketball, he was largely responsible for assembling Tennessee's 2006 signing class of Ramar Smith, Duke Crews, Wayne Chism, Josh Tabb and Marques Johnson.

Johnson elected to transfer midway through his freshman season but the other four were major contributors as rookies. Smith started 28 games, Chism 18, Crews 18 and Tabb three. They form the nucleus of a very promising Tennessee basketball future.

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