There have been a ton of names thrown out there for the head coaching job at George Mason lately. From names like Jeff Capel to guys like Stony Brook’s Steve Pikiell. People who we may have thought were in the early running like Bill Courtney and Mike Lonergan seem to not be high on Tom O’Connor’s list. Neither have been contacted by the university and Lonergan is already talking to GW about their vacancy. Meanwhile the local media near Cornell seems to think Courtney isn’t going anywhere.
One name that may or may not make the Mason fan base cringe is Jeff Jones, who is currently the head coach at American. Yesterday afternoon Greg Burton of ESPN950 radio in Richmond claimed that Jones will be interviewing at George Mason today. You can listen here, it starts at about the 7 minute mark. Could be the Mason administration just doing their due diligence of a local guy but you never know with these things.
Jeff Jones is an interesting candidate because he doesn’t seem like the type of character guy the administration would bring in after someone like Jim Larranaga. Jones starred as a point guard at UVA and then went on to be come the youngest ACC coach at the time at the age of 29. He had early success and compiled a 146-104 record while there and reached the Elite Eight in 1995. His teams went to the NCAA tournament five times out of eight seasons and he won the NIT championship in 1992. However the program unraveled during his last three seasons, some of which because of off-the-court issues from both Jones and his players. Apparently it was rumored that Jones had an affair with a UVA cheerleader that eventually led to a divorce from his wife in 1996. He was dismissed in 1998 after three sub-par seasons and then became the head coach at American in 2000. Jones has taken American to the NCAA tournament twice but his overall work there doesn’t exactly “wow” you.
I can’t say I’d really be all that thrilled if Jeff Jones was the next George Mason head basketball coach. He seems like the polar opposite of Jim Larranaga, who Fairfax and the alumni/student body fell in love with. When you hear things from media closer to the situation describing the end of his time at UVA as “a train wreck in slow motion”, it’s difficult to applaud Tom O’Connor for bringing this guy in. I believe in giving people second changes but it’s one of those ‘is this the best guy out there’ type of deals. O’Connor has to know hiring someone like Jones won’t exactly win back the Mason fan base, right?