In three years as UCF's head coach, Donnie Jones has taken the Knights to new heights. Whether it has been victories over nationally-ranked teams, trips to the postseason, top-25 rankings, triumphs over conference rivals or individual honors for his players, Jones has guided UCF to plenty of historic firsts.
Jones, who won a pair of national championships as an assistant at Florida, was named the head coach at UCF on March 29, 2010. In his introductory press conference the following day, he said that his goal was for UCF to have continued success and become a factor on the national level. Jones has already helped the Knights achieve those aspirations.
Another Successful Campaign
The Knights enjoyed another successful campaign in 2012-13, posting a 20-11 mark while facing one of the toughest schedules in program history. Five of the team's defeats came against squads that won their conference regular-season championships. In its final season in Conference USA, UCF tied for fourth in the league standings at 9-7 to post its second-consecutive top-four finish. The Knights had some huge victories during the year, including a triumph at in-state rival USF to open the season and wins over top-50 RPI squads in Belmont and Southern Miss.
Jones helped Isaiah Sykes develop into one of the most versatile players in the country. The Detroit native led the nation with two triple-doubles and earned All-C-USA First Team and C-USA All-Defensive Team honors after becoming the first player in league history to finish the year ranked in the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists and steals in conference competition. Keith Clanton, who concluded his career as UCF's all-time leader in rebounds, blocks, games played and starts was named to the All-C-USA Second Team. Both Sykes and Clanton received NABC All-District 11 First Team honors, marking the first time in program history that two Knights were named to the all-district squad. The Knights also shined in the classroom as five squad members earned C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll recognition.
A Season of Firsts
The 2011-12 campaign was filled with historic achievements for the Knights. UCF went 22-11 overall, posting the fourth-most victories for the program since the school moved to the Division I level in 1984. Thanks to an RPI in the fifties, and some impressive victories, the Knights were selected to the NIT for the first time. UCF received a No. 6 seed in the historic event and opened the tournament at Drexel. Jones guided his squad to a 10-6 record in C-USA, good for third in the final league standings. UCF defeated UAB at the league championship to advance to the C-USA semifinals for the first time since joining the conference in 2005. In league play, the Knights registered their first victories over Memphis (0-10 entering the year) and UAB (0-7). Jones also led UCF to one of the biggest wins in program history in non-conference action as the Knights rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat No. 4 ranked and defending national champion UConn at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Jones helped his players garner several accolades during the campaign. Clanton became just the second Knight to earn a spot on the All-C-USA First Team. The Orlando native was also named to the NABC All-District 11 First Team.
Success Off the Court
Under Jones, the Knights are not only shining on the court. UCF players are also enjoying success in the classroom. In 2012, three members of the squad earned their bachelor's degree. Following the 2011-12 campaign, A.J. Rompza was one of five league players to be named to the C-USA Men's Basketball All-Academic Team. Rompza was also named to the NABC Honors Court.
Turnaround at Marshall
Jones came to UCF after three seasons at Marshall, where he quickly turned around the Thundering Herd program. Jones was named Marshall's head coach in 2007. He inherited a program that had struggled since joining C-USA in 2005, and quickly changed the culture surrounding the Herd. Less than three years later, Jones led the Herd to one of the top campaigns in program history. In 2009-10, Marshall went 24-10 and advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The appearance was the first trip to the postseason in 22 years for the school. Jones' squad began the tournament with a victory over Western Carolina, giving Marshall its first postseason win since 1967. Marshall finished the year 11-5 in C-USA play. Marshall had one of the most prolific offenses in the country and led C-USA by scoring 79.9 points per game. Marshall totaled a school-record 2,717 points during the campaign.
To help accomplish the impressive turnaround, Jones attracted several top recruits to Marshall, including Hassan Whiteside, who led the nation in blocks in 2009-10. The post player swatted 182 shots - the fourth-most in NCAA history. Whiteside was named both the C-USA Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year, and garnered Freshman All-America Second Team honors from The Sporting News. Sacramento picked Whiteside with the 33rd overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Both Whiteside and Tyler Wilkerson were selected to the 2009-10 All-C-USA Second Team. Dago Pena, who was also recruited by Jones, was named the league's sixth man of the year. In three seasons at Marshall, Jones compiled a 55-41 record. After arriving in Huntington, W.Va., in 2007, Jones led the Herd to a 16-14 mark during his inaugural campaign. He guided his team to victories over a pair of eventual NCAA Tournament squads in San Diego and Winthrop, and helped Marshall go 8-8 in C-USA play. In 2008-09, Marshall went 15-17 overall and 7-9 in league games.
Taking Florida to the Top
Prior to taking the helm at Marshall, Jones served for 11 years as an assistant coach at Florida, helping the program claim a pair of national titles and make three trips to the Final Four. Working as an assistant under Billy Donovan from 1996-07, Jones helped Florida win back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. He played a key role in Florida's recruiting and player development that led to a school-record nine-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, four Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles and three SEC Tournament crowns. Florida recorded a 261-103 mark during Jones' time with the program. The 2006 squad defeated its six NCAA Tournament opponents by an average of 16 points en route to the national title. The following year, Florida became the first team in 15 years to repeat as national champions. Florida went 33-6 in 2005-06, and then recorded a 35-5 mark the following season.
Finding Top Talent
Jones excelled on the recruiting trail while at Florida. During his time at the school, the program signed 11 McDonald's High School All-America selections and boasted top-five national recruiting classes on five occasions. Jones also helped recruit and mentor 12 National Basketball Association Draft picks while at Florida, including five lottery selections. Jones' NBA players include Matt Bonner, David Lee, Mike Miller and Jason Williams. Following Florida's 2007 national title, five of Jones' pupils - Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard - were selected in the draft.
Moving Up the Ladder
Before moving to Florida, Jones served on the Marshall staff for six years, the first two as a graduate assistant. During the final two seasons of his tenure as an assistant at Marshall, Jones worked under Donovan, who later took the head coaching position at Florida. Prior to his arrival at Marshall, Jones worked for two years as an assistant at his alma mater, Pikeville College in Kentucky. A native of Point Pleasant, W.Va., Jones earned his bachelor's degree in business education from Pikeville in 1988, and received his master's degree in sports management from Marshall in 1992. Jones had a stellar college playing career at Pikeville, recording a school-record 513 career assists. As a senior he finished second nationally in the NAIA with 10.7 assists per game. Jones is married to the former Michelle Gibson.The couple has three children: Madisyn Michelle, Sofie Louise and Donald Isaac.
Donnie Jones' NBA Draft Picks
Jason Williams (Florida)/Sacramento/1st round, 7th overall/1998
Mike Miller (Florida)/Orlando/1st round, 5th overall/2000
Donnell Harvey (Florida)/New York/1st round, 22nd overall/2000
Matt Bonner (Florida)/Chicago/2nd round, 45th overall/2003
Christian Drejer (Florida)/New Jersey/2nd round, 51st overall/2004
David Lee (Florida)/New York/1st round, 30th overall/2005
Al Horford (Florida)/Atlanta/1st round, 3rd overall/2007
Corey Brewer (Florida)/Minnesota/1st round, 7th overall/2007
Joakim Noah (Florida)/Chicago/1st round, 9th overall/2007
Chris Richard (Florida)/Minnesota/2nd round, 41st overall/2007
Taurean Green (Florida)/Portland/2nd round, 52nd overall/2007
Marreese Speights (Florida)/Philadelphia/1st round, 16th overall/2008
Hassan Whiteside (Marshall)/Sacramento/2nd round, 33rd overall/2010