Ex-Florida assistant Jones takes reins at Marshall

Updated: April 7, 2007, 1:26 PM ET
Associated Press

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- With two national championships on his resume, Donnie Jones returned to his home state with big hopes for Marshall basketball.

"We've got to get behind the team we have right now," he said Saturday during his introduction as coach of the Thundering Herd. "We've got to make them dream again. We've got to start setting our goals high."

Jones was an assistant at Florida, helping the Gators win two straight NCAA titles. His hiring at Marshall was announced by Florida coach Billy Donovan a day earlier during a championship celebration.

Jones replaces Ron Jirsa, who was fired after a 43-74 record in four seasons. Jones now wants to change the mind-set at Marshall, bringing a bit of Florida with him.

"Our team went to a national championship last year, and it wasn't only because of talent," he said.

Rather, he credited a culture that focused on a "we" mentality and encompassed the entire university, not just the basketball program.

He said the Thundering Herd will try to emulate Florida -- pressing, running and playing as a team. He said five or six scholarship players under consideration will add depth and talent.

Jones is from Point Pleasant and started coaching as a graduate assistant at Marshall in 1990, spending four years as an assistant. Two were under Donovan, whom Jones followed to Florida in 1996.

Jones said he and his wife, Michelle, cried while watching "We Are Marshall." The movie recounts the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including most of the football team and coaches.

"The people in this community make this school special," Jones said. "There's no reason that we can't have the same kind of success that they've had in the past really quick."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press