Former Florida assistant coach Donnie Jones had a decision to make last April– stay in Orlando and remain an NBA scout, or move back to the college coaching sidelines.
Jones chose the later, accepting an offer to become an assistant coach at Wichita State after a year away from the college game.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Jones had established roots in Orlando as head coach at UCF for six years. He was fired at the end of the 2016 season, but remained in Orlando while scouting for the Los Angeles Clippers and frequently attended UF games this past season.
Jones and his family moved to Wichita, Kan., over the spring.
“They loved Orlando, it’s been a great experience for us there,” Jones said. “It’s always hard especially for my oldest daughter who is 16, but they’ve really enjoyed it in Wichita. It’s a great basketball atmosphere there. In Wichita, the people have been unbelievable, Gregg Marshall is a great coach so it’s a great person to learn from, to be around.”
The position at Wichita State opened when associate coach Chris Jans left to take the head coaching position at New Mexico State. Jones had a long-standing relationship with Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall that’s spanned for more than 20 years.
“He was looking for someone to come in with some experience, I think, because he’s got an experienced team coming back,” Jones said. “Obviously I had to make a decision whether I wanted stay in the NBA or get back into college. So I definitely wanted to coach.”
When Marshall became a head coach at Winthrop in 1998, he tried to convince Jones to leave Florida to take a job under him. But Jones, who was in his second season as an assistant at Florida under Billy Donovan at the time, opted to stay in Gainesville.
“Obviously, I was in a good spot with Billy,” Jones said. “We’ve maintained a friendship and obviously the timing was right this time so I’m excited to be a part of it.”
At Wichita State, Jones is joining a team that has a chance to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. The Shockers return five starters from a team that went 31-5 and suffered a close loss to Kentucky in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament last March. This season, Wichita State is moving from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference, where Jones was a head coach at UCF.
“We’ve got a veteran team coming back,” Jones said. “We’re moving into the American Conference, where I just came from, coaching at UCF. Hopefully my experience there will enhance some value with the team, so I think it will be fun.”
— Florida 2018 point guard target Elijah Weaver announced he’ll take an official visit to UF the weekend of Sept. 16, when the Gators host Tennessee in football at The Swamp. The 6-4 Weaver, from Oldsmar Christian School in Oldsmar, Fla., is one of a handful of point guards in the 2018 class at UF is recruiting heavily, a list that includes four-star Devon Dotson (Charlotte, N.C.) and four-star Mike DeVoe (Orlando). Weaver played on the same Oldsmar team with current UF redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett and former UF guard Eric Hester, who transferred to Akron following his freshman season.