"How did it get so late so soon?"- Dr. Seuss
Game #9-020: American at Quinnipiac BobcatsNovember 12, 2012 7:00 pm
TD Banknorth Sports Center
HAMDEN, Conn. - For whatever reason, I've found a niche in coaching younger kids, 9-11 year-olds. It's fun, there's not much pressure to win, and they always come ready to be active and learn.
But then they usually move on to other coaches as I get the next batch. I see some of them around, some of them I don't. There have been a few times where I haven't seen a kid in a couple of years, they go from 11 to 14, and they are unrecognizable to me; they've sprouted inches, become young men and women instead of little children.
When the growth is gradual, you don't really notice as much.
I knew Jeff Jones was coming to town with his American team Monday night. I knew he had been there for a little while.
But my first instinct as he walked onto the court, "Man, the years haven't been too kind to him, have they?"
Then I glanced down at my program which read, "Jeff Jones (Virginia '82 - 13th season)."
13th season at American? You're kidding? I wondered, starting to do some of the math in my head. Could it be?
Holy crap, it makes sense. I'm sure if someone didn't see me for more than a decade, they'd probably think I looked pretty old, too.
Jones is now 52 to be exact, he was 29 when he was hired by Virginia as the youngest head coach in ACC history. Time flies whether you're having fun or not. Four NCAA appearances in five years later, Jones was nearing the top of the coaching profession. After knocking off Roy Williams and Kansas, Jones was beaten by Nolan Richardson and Arkansas in the 1995 Midwest regional final.
It was only a matter of time before he was mentioned in the same breath as Williams and Richardson permanently, most (including me) thought.
Three years later, Jones was fired from the school he had been at since 1978
as a player (where he played in a Final Four) by the very man he played for and coached under, Terry Holland. This game will hurt you, indeed.
To be fair to Holland, there were a few off-the-court issues coupled with an 11-19 record (3-13 in the ACC) that forced his hand. But for all intents and purposes, Jones was gone from the national stage and has never returned. Yes, there were NCAA appearances in 2008 and 2009 (the first for the school), which you'd think would be Jones' ticket back above the Red Line, but it's now four seasons later, and there he is, still in the Patriot League, where he's never had a losing conference record in 11 campaigns.
That's pretty damn good, isn't it? I immediately felt bad for not knowing.
And so I propose we accept Mr. Jones as a full-fledged member of our clan. I understand it's highly unusual to accept someone who spent so much time in his youth above the Red Line. But, Your Honor, I add Exhibit A from when he was given a contract extension
after his first NCAA appearance at American. "It's not just all about what conference or how much money you're making," Jones said. "At least for me, a big part of it is being wanted and being in an environment where you're comfortable and happy. And the big one is 'Are you in a place were you truly believe you can win?' And all of those things were true for me and have been true for me."
Monday was a pretty good night for Jones and his team as well. Kyle Kager hit a three-pointer four minutes into the game to give the Eagles a 7-6 lead and they never relinquished it, amazingly never leading by more than eight (six in the second half), but holding off every advance of the host Bobcats, who seemed ready to take control at any moment until there were no moments left.
The Eagles were led by a guy - Stephen Lumpkins - who spent last season as a left-handed pitcher in the Royals organizatio
n. Somehow, Quinnipiac kept letting the 6-foot-8 Lumpkins get back to that left hand, as he went 7-for-9 from the field for 19 points.
Fellow senior Daniel Munoz also looks like a steadying point guard for Jones, as he hit three superhoops and only turned the ball over three times against Quinnipiac's pressure. American took only 40 shots and had 20 turnovers, but kept enough composure to pick up a solid road win.
It was another disappointing night at home for Quinnipiac, who had a few of them last season. The Bobcats continue to be one of the most impressive offensive rebounding squads around, but seem to also miss more shots than anyone within five feet of the basket. Ike Azotem finally made his presence known late, but still only finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Jamee Jackson and Ousmane Drame combined for three points and three rebounds in 41 minutes of action.
Quinnipiac's night was probably summed up best by a sequence with seven minutes left, when - trailing 48-46 - Dave Johnson picked Kager's pocket, drove down the lane with no one around him, and mysteriously lost the ball. The Bobcats had a chance to get the loose ball, but Munoz grabbed it, much to the consternation of Tom Moore and the Quinnipiac coaching staff.
Jones took the time to talk with the American radio crew after the game and then was gone. I ran into color commentator Jeremy Huber in the parking lot, and he said that while they stayed over the night before but were just about to take the six-hour drive back. Just like in the ACC.
Who knows if we'll hear from Jones again this season? I hope so, but there are a lot of teams out there, and only so many of us TMM9 writers running around.
But 13 years is enough, isn't it? It's time to welcome Jeff Jones as one of us.
AMERICAN 61, at QUINNIPIAC 55
AMERICAN 1-1 (0-0) -- D. Munoz 5-10 0-0 13; S. Lumpkins 7-9 5-7 19; J. Schoof 1-2 2-2 5; A. Carroll 1-4 1-2 4; T. Wroblicky 5-8 3-3 13; D. Fisher 1-3 2-2 4; J. Reed 0-2 0-0 0; K. Kager 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 21-40 13-16 61.
QUINNIPIAC 1-1 (0-0) -- D. Johnson 5-11 0-0 11; I. Azotam 5-12 1-4 11; G. Young 3-8 1-2 8; J. Jackson 0-2 1-3 1; S. Shannon 3-6 0-0 9; Z. Hearst 4-8 0-0 9; O. Drame 1-3 0-0 2; K. Ray 0-1 0-0 0; J. Harris 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 23-53 3-9 55.
Three-point goals: AMER 6-11 (A. Carroll 1-3; D. Munoz 3-5; K. Kager 1-1; J. Schoof 1-1; J. Reed 0-1), QUIN 6-17 (D. Johnson 1-2; G. Young 1-4; Z. Hearst 1-5; K. Ray 0-1; S. Shannon 3-5); Rebounds: AMER 22 (S. Lumpkins 6), QUIN 24 (I. Azotam 9); Assists: AMER 10 (D. Munoz 3), QUIN 17 (D. Johnson 7); Total Fouls -- AMER 15, QUIN 16; Fouled Out: AMER-None; QUIN-None.
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