Hatters Score Top Recruiter as Head Coach
First, his alma mater, the Pikeville Bears, and the Marshall Thundering Herd. Then to the Florida Gators and the UCF Knights before a return to Marshall. Now, via brief stops with the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers, the Wichita State Shockers and the Dayton Flyers, it’s on to lead the Hatters.
With more than 30 years in college basketball (and beyond), Donnie Jones has arrived at Stetson, becoming the 22nd head coach in the history of men’s basketball program. Jones was introduced at a campus press conference on Monday, April 1. He replaces Corey Williams, who spent six years as the head coach.
“Today, I’m introducing you to one of the most positive coaching leaders I’ve ever come across,” said Stetson Director of Athletics Jeff Altier at the conference. “He empowers others and gets results by encouraging the staff and student-athletes under his direction with positive leadership.”
Altier also talked about Jones’ core values aligning with the university, a viewpoint shared by Stetson President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D.
“Having Donnie Jones join us is an opportunity to impact a generation of students, but more so, a generation of alumni who love this institution dearly, our community here in DeLand and in Central Florida,” Libby said. “We know from what we have seen from Donnie’s work in the past, that he is the exact right person to do it.”
Jones brings deep Florida roots. He was an assistant at UF for 11 years, helping the Gators win consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007 with Billy Donovan at the helm. Earlier, Jones was with Donovan at Marshall, where he returned as head coach from 2007 to 2010. (Donovan now is head coach of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.) Jones then led UCF to 100 wins from 2010 to 2016 before working as an NBA scout and joining the coaching staffs at Wichita State and Dayton.
Jones is regarded as top recruiter, helping the Gators recruit and sign 11 McDonald’s All-American and 12 eventual NBA draft selections. At Marshall, he signed and coached current Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside.
In a Dayton Daily News article, Jones described Stetson as an “incredible academic school, a small school, a great location outside of Orlando.” Notably, at Marshall, UF and Dayton, Jones worked with Anthony Grant, Dayton’s current head coach, who got his coaching start at Stetson in 1993.
Jones sees potential.
“I’m just trying to bring some new life in there and build a culture,” he said in the article. “I know it takes a little time to get it up and moving, but anytime you get an opportunity to be a head coach again — and this is my third one — I’m excited about it.”
As Jones was introduced to the Stetson community, he spoke about his return to Florida and opportune timing.
“It is a great time to be a part of Stetson,” Jones said. “That is what excites me. It is our turn to join in and be a part of what is going to happen next, and we are looking forward to that as well.”
Jones concluded his introduction without a guarantee of success on the court, but with a look ahead toward enticing promise.
“Today’s the day,” he pronounced, “that a new era begins.”