April 6, 2010
By Doug Richards
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - New UCF men's basketball head coach Donnie Jones announced his staff Tuesday, naming Shawn Finney, Brett Nelson and Darren Tillis assistant coaches, and Tim Thomas the director of basketball operations. All four were on Jones' staff at Marshall for the past three years, helping rebuild the Thundering Herd program.
Marshall went 24-10 in 2009-10, recording one of the finest campaigns in school history. The Herd registered a program-best 11-5 mark in Conference USA, tying for third in the league. Marshall had one of the top offenses in the country and led C-USA in scoring at 79.9 points per game.
Finney, Nelson and Tillis all worked with Hassan Whiteside, who led the nation in blocks. Whiteside recorded 182 blocks - the fourth-most in NCAA single-season history. He 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. Both Whiteside and Tyler Wilkerson were selected to the all-conference second team and Dago Pena was named the league's sixth man of the year.
"I am extremely excited to have Shawn, Brett, Darren and Tim join me at UCF," Jones said. "They all bring excellent experience, a tireless work ethic and a passion for the game to our program. Having worked with me at Marshall, they have a great understanding of the system that we will implement here at UCF."
Jones also announced that Micah Byars, who served as UCF's director of basketball operations from 2006-10, will remain with the Knights in a non-coaching capacity.
Finney served as the head coach at Tulane from 2000-05. Before accepting the job with the Green Wave, he was an assistant coach for Tubby Smith at Tulsa (1991-95), Georgia (1995-97) and Kentucky (1997-00). In his first season with the Wildcats, Finney helped Kentucky go 35-4 and claim the national title. During Finney's two seasons at Georgia, the Bulldogs went a combined 45-19 and made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. While working for Smith at Tulsa, Finney helped the Golden Hurricane win Missouri Valley Conference championships and earn spots in the NCAA Tournament on two occasions. Tulsa advanced to the Sweet 16 during both trips to the postseason.
A former standout student-athlete at Florida, Nelson came to Marshall after spending the 2006-07 campaign as the director of operations at VCU, working under Anthony Grant. The Rams went 28-7 that season and posted a victory over Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Nelson began his coaching career in 2005, spending a year at Colorado State as the program's director of operations.
Nelson played at Florida from 1999-03, while Jones served as one of the program's assistant coaches. He was a member of four NCAA Tournament squads, including the 1999-00 team that advanced to the national championship game. Nelson ranks second all-time at Florida in 3-pointers made with 273 and is also second on the school's all-time steals list with 199.
Tillis served as an assistant coach at Tennessee State from 2003-07 before moving to Marshall. He also worked as an assistant at Clemson from 1998-03.
Tillis starred collegiately at Cleveland State and was selected with the 21st overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft by Boston. He spent two years in the NBA, playing with the Celtics, Cleveland and Golden State. Tillis entered the college coaching ranks in 1995, spending a year at SMU as an assistant before moving to Wyoming for a season.
Thomas brings extensive coaching experience on both the college and prep levels to UCF. From 2005-07, he served as the athletics director and associate head coach for the postgraduate team at The Patterson School in North Carolina. In his two campaigns as the associate head coach, the school went 69-7. Thomas also served as the varsity head coach in 2005-06.
Before moving to The Patterson School, Thomas was the athletics director and associate head coach at the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. During his tenure, the school produced 30 Division I signees and went a combined 71-6. Thomas worked at West Virginia University Institute of Technology from 1994-03, serving in a number of different roles, including women's basketball head coach from 2001-03. He was an assistant men's basketball coach from 1994-01.
The UCF ticket sales office is currently accepting season-ticket deposits for the 2010-11 campaign at (407) UCF-1000 or online at UCFAthletics.com. By placing their deposit now, fans will receive a free 2010-11 NIKE Knightmare t-shirt with their ticket purchase. Season tickets start at just $99.
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