In five 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.
Immediate Success The first of three-straight 20-win seasons while at the helm of the Knights, Jones’ first at UCF was a huge success. The 2010-11 campaign was highlighted by wins over No. 16 Florida, Miami and UMass en route to a perfect 13-0 non-conference slate and UCF’s first appearance in the national rankings. The Knights spent four weeks in the top-25, rising as high as 18th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 19th in the Associated Press Top 25 after improving to 14-0 to start the season. UCF was one of only six teams in the nation that went undefeated in non-league play, joining Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse and San Diego State. Finishing the season 21-12 overall, the Knights also participated in the College Basketball Invitational, the program’s first at-large appearance in a postseason tournament.
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 50s, 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 and UAB. Jones also led UCF to one of the biggest wins in program history 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.
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. 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 big 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.
Guiding Knights into New Era With Jones at the helm, the Knights joined the new American Athletic Conference for the 2013-14 season and have taken on some of the most prestigious programs in college basketball over the last two years. The conference has had two of the last three national champions in Louisville (2013) and Connecticut (2014). With every conference game televised on either the ESPN or CBS family of networks, the Knights have enjoyed unprecedented national exposure while facing teams rich in basketball history in UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple.
Success Off the Court Under Jones, the Knights are not only shining on the court. UCF players are also enjoying success in the classroom. Twelve players that Jones has coached at UCF have earned their bachelor's degree. This past summer the NCAA announced its Academic Progress Rate statistics, and the Knights' numbers were stellar. UCF's single year APR was a perfect 1000 in 2012-13, the first time ever the program achieved the feat. The Knights' multi-year score of 943 was also the highest ever for the men's basketball team since the APR began in 2004. 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. The Knights also shined in the classroom in 2012-13 as five squad members earned C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll recognition.
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 top offenses in the country and led C-USA by scoring 79.9 points per game. To help accomplish the impressive turnaround, Jones attracted several talented players 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. 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. 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, Sophie 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