Longtime Donovan assistant to take over at Marshall
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Donnie Jones has left Billy Donovan's Florida basketball staff to take over Marshall's program.
Donovan announced Jones' appointment Friday night at Florida's championship celebration. Jones, who will replace fired coach Ron Jirsa, was to be introduced at a news conference Saturday morning in Huntington, W. Va.
"I hope they still give me the job," Jones joked, saying the news wasn't supposed to leak before Saturday. "I really don't want to give too much because I don't want to take away from their day."
For Jones, the move is a return to his home state and the school where he got his graduate degree.
"It's exciting to go back because it is home, but I'm excited about the school there," Jones said. "I think it's a great situation, a great program. Even though it is home, it's a place that I'm real excited about coaching at."
Jones, Florida's associate coach, met with Marshall athletic director Bob Marcum on Thursday morning, then spent the afternoon touring the facilities.
The 40-year-old Jones was hired as a graduate assistant at Marshall in 1990. He spent four years there as an assistant coach, two under Donovan, before following Donovan to Florida in 1996.
"When I first got hired at Marshall, Donnie was on my first [staff], and he's been with me ever since," Donovan said. "Besides working so hard for me, for the University of Florida, I'm so happy for him and for his family because he's getting an opportunity to go back home where his roots are. Marshall made a great decision. I cannot thank him enough personally, his wife, Michelle, and children, for what he's done for me."
During his tenure, Jones has developed into an accomplished recruiter who used his West Virginia roots to help lure former Florida guards Jason Williams and Brett Nelson.
Last season, Jones was promoted to associate head coach from assistant when Grant left to take the head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"Obviously, my time here has been unbelievable, with coach Donovan as a mentor and the assistant coaches I've been able to learn from -- from Anthony Grant to John Pelphrey to Timmy Maloney -- a lot of guys that have been a part of my opportunities," Jones said. "I've been fortunate to have this opportunity. I'm excited to have the opportunity to be a part of a special situation at Marshall.
Jones is a native of Point Pleasant, W. Va., about a 45-minute drive from the Marshall campus. He also holds a basketball camp there every summer.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press