"Winning is How You Are Measured": A Conversation with Mike Jones
Virginia Tech’s Men’s Basketball team drastically exceeded expectations last season; yet somehow, the storylines have continued to amaze throughout the offseason as well.
“I get to work in an organization that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and for a man that I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” said new Virginia Tech Associate Head Coach Mike Jones. “I get to learn a lot and become a better coach because of it.”
Last Monday’s news of Jones’ appointment was a special treat for members of Hokie nation, who had been shaken by the departure of Assistant Coach Chester Frazier just days prior.
Jones enters Blacksburg with a tremendous resumé, having amassed 511 wins and only 119 losses during a 19-year Head Coaching career at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, along with a FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the co-title of Team USA’s 2019 Developmental Coach of the Year.
The new addition to Virginia Tech’s staff was also once a standout player at Old Dominion University, where he earned All-Colonial Athletic Association Second-Team honors and was instrumental in guiding his unit to an NCAA Tournament appearance in his senior season. Jones graduated from Old Dominion with 1,166 career points despite limited playing time as an underclassman.
From there, Jones went on to play professionally in Canada, Portugal, Finland, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, and enjoyed a limited stint in the NBA; yet for a man that has seen so much in the basketball world, coaching in the NCAA will be completely new to him.
“I’m still learning the rules,” said Jones on Monday, his first day in his new office. “I want to meet all the players and try to start establishing a relationship with them; I want to meet all the coaches and staff here and join the family.”
Although Virginia Tech exited in the first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament despite 28 points from sophomore guard Nahiem Alleyne, the season was considered to be a massive success. The Hokies’ “rebuilding” year saw them skip many steppingstones and vault into a program record-tying third seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s postseason tournament, all while enjoying a Top-25 national ranking for a majority of the campaign.
Junior forward Keve Aluma was nominated for the ACC’s All-Conference Second-Team while sophomore guard Tyrece Radford was given an honorable mention, though it was Head Coach Mike Young who came away with the biggest award, snatching the title for ACC Coach of the Year from Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton.
The success and basketball acumen of Mike Young stood out in particular to Jones during his time of decision making, and ultimately influenced him to commit to coach Young’s staff.
“I cannot emphasize this enough: Coach Young is the reason why I am here,” said Jones. “If it were not for him and his approach and vision for me, I would not be here.”
Jones revealed that he had been enamored by Mike Young since his initial pitch to him, which included a promise to teach him the ins and outs of running a Division-I program: dealing with fundraising, arranging academic assistance, coordinating trips out of state, and all of the other aspects that come with running a team at a major university. This idea of developing Jones into a more well-rounded coach was unique compared to the offers that he had received prior and left the Hokies' new talisman with an easy answer to coach Young's proposition.
When asked what success at the college level would look like for him, Jones joked that he had “no idea”; he then clarified with a powerful statement.
“We are playing in probably the best and toughest conference you can play in— when it comes down to it, you better win games,” said Jones. “[The staff and I] are men of character, and we want to impact these young men’s lives as well; I believe there is a certain measure that will be put towards that and who these young men grow into.”
One particular point of interest in coach Jones’ background is his connection to the high school world and the recruiting possibilities that will result, given his extended tenure with DeMatha and Team USA. The Hokies are set to enter next season with only two four-star players on their roster (Darius Maddox and Lynn Kidd) and could benefit from an influx in natural talent for years to come.
Although he was unable to reveal any specifics, Jones etched out his plans for recruiting in the near future.
“I do hope to be able to [recruit the DMV]; it has some of the best talent in the country,” said Jones. “I do believe that I have connections a little bit of everywhere… in order for Virginia Tech to be as good as we possibly can be, we have to be able to tap into the talent bases all over the country.”
It is not every day that one of the most successful coaches at his level ends up as an Associate Head Coach, much less for a school outside of the typical blue bloods— to say that Jones’ arrival in Blacksburg could be program altering is not outside the realm of possibility.
Despite only officially announcing his decision to join the Hokies last week, the former DeMatha man has already identified the strength of his team and what he will be aiming to achieve in the coming years.
“Virginia Tech is tough; the players are tough; I’ve learned that if [a coach] take[s] on a personality, the team is going to take on the personality of their coach, which speaks volumes of who coach Young is,” said Jones. “I’m going to help coach Young lead us to as many wins as we possibly can; championships; deep runs in the NCAA [Tournament]; winning is how you are measured.”
Having a man on the bench that has handled and exceeded expectations for decades should prove to be an invaluable commodity for VT; Jones has been in the spotlight and dealt with people all over the country and will feel right at home in his new role regardless of how long he has been in Blacksburg.
Before concluding his remarks, Jones wanted to send a special message to Hokie fans that are waiting patiently for their boys to lace up again next season.
“Thank you so much for welcoming me with open arms and such enthusiasm— to make the decision that I made to leave a place that I love and has been such a huge part of my life was not easy; but Hokie nation has definitely made it much easier,” said Jones. “My family is so excited to join your family, and I am going to work as hard as I possibly can; hopefully we win a whole lot of basketball games.”
Only time will tell the success of this appointment by Mike Young, but if history is any indication, Jones could help transform the Hokies from an off-and-on threat to a perennial powerhouse.
Virginia Tech’s season is set to tip-off in Cassell Coliseum on November 9th against the University of Maine, where Jones will make his debut as a Hokie.