UT looking at UCF coach

A former University of Florida assistant has emerged in Tennessee's search for a new head basketball coach ... but it isn't Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart or Alabama's Anthony Grant.

FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman reports that the Vols have "reached out" to Donnie Jones, who just concluded a 21-12 season in his first year as head coach at the University of Central Florida.

Like Smart and Grant, Jones is a former aide to Billy Donovan, who guided Florida to the 2011 SEC title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.

Jones, who assisted Donovan from 1996-07, beat his former boss earlier this season. Jones' Knights upset Donovan's Gators 57-54 six games into a 14-0 start. UCF then suffered through an eight-game losing streak that included two losses to the Memphis Tigers - 61-77 in Memphis and 62-63 in Orlando.

Central Florida pulled out of the skid in time to win seven of its next 10 games before losing to Creighton 82-64 in the CBI Tournament Wednesday night at Omaha. Because of travel problems, the Knights were forced to make the 5 1/2-hour flight from Orlando to Omaha Wednesday morning, arriving in Omaha just five hours prior to tipoff.

Jones, who turns 45 on July 7, was born in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and schooled at Pikeville (Ky.) College. He assisted at Pikeville and Marshall before hooking up with Donovan at Florida in '96.

During his 11 years in Gainesville, Jones helped the Gators to a program-record nine consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, with national titles in 2006 and 2007. Described by the Central Florida athletics website as "one of the nation's premier recruiters," he helped Florida sign 11 McDonald's All-Americans and five top-5 classes.

Eight players who signed with the Gators during Jones' stint there have gone on to become first-round NBA Draft picks - Jason Williams (pick 7 in 1998), Mike Miller (pick 5 in 2000), Donnell Harvey (pick 22 in 2000), David Lee (pick 30 in 2005), Al Horford (pick 3 in 2007), Corey Brewer (pick 7 in 2007), Joakim Noah (pick 9 in 2007) and Marreese Speights (pick 16 in 2008).

Jones left the Gator staff to become head man at Marshall in 2007. He posted a 55-41 record in three years there - going 16-14 in Year 1, 15-17 in Year 2 and 24-10 in Year 3. His final team averaged 79.9 points per game to lead Conference USA.

One of his Thundering Herd recruits, 7-footer Hassan Whiteside, led the NCAA with 182 blocked shots as a true freshman in 2009-10. Whiteside declared for the NBA Draft on March 29, 2010, the same day Jones left Marshall for Central Florida. Whiteside was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 33rd pick in the 2010 draft.

Jones' 2010-11 Central Florida team averaged 68.8 points per game and allowed 63.0. It shot 45.4 percent from the field and allowed 41.0.

Jones has a 4-star center, Michael Chandler, committed to UCF who is scheduled to sign with the Knights in April. The Indianapolis native also considered Kentucky, UConn, Indiana, St. John's and Oregon. He was previously committed to Xavier and Louisville.

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