By way of preparing himself for a return to coaching at Mississippi
College after 12 years off the bench, Mike Jones spent hours and hours
consulting with lots of people, including an impressive array of
current and former coaches.
“Kermit Davis, Jay Ladner, Richard Williams, John Brady, a bunch of
folks … I met with them, visited with them about how things have
changed,” said Jones, who has been MC’s athletic director for the past
15 years. “What they told me was, basically, the game hasn’t changed.
The players have changed.
“You’ve still got to guard people, shoot a high percentage, rebound,
pass. But the way they do it now is a little different.”
Jones’ third turn as MC’s coach officially begins Friday (Nov. 8) when
the Choctaws host Belhaven University at A.E. Wood Coliseum – aka the
Golden Dome – in Clinton.
There’s no questioning Jones’ coaching acumen. Check his resume. A
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame member, he previously coached the
Choctaws for 16 years over two stints, winning a school-record 332
games and five conference championships, making multiple NCAA
Tournament appearances and earning several coach of the year awards.
His 2006-07 team was ranked third in the country in Division III at
one time, made the D-III Sweet 16 and finished 27-3. The court at Wood
Coliseum is named in his honor.
Jones is a former MC player who served as a longtime assistant coach
to the late M.K. Turk at Southern Miss and was a successful head coach
at Copiah-Lincoln Community College before taking the MC job the first
time, back in 1988.
The hallmarks of Jones’ teams were gritty defense and efficient
offense. His current challenge is to blend his old-school philosophies
with this new generation of players – and get MC men’s basketball back
“Mike Jones is one of the very best coaches at any level of college
basketball,” Davis Jr., current Ole Miss coach, said in an MC release
announcing Jones’ hire. “He is a relentless recruiter and a people
person. His ‘X’s and O’s’ are on par with any coach at any level, and
he will be able to get MC back to recognition at a national level.
This is a great move for MC.”
The MC program has lagged since its return to NCAA Division II and the
Gulf South Conference. The last winning season was 2012-13, when the
Choctaws were still in D-III. The Choctaws went 7-18 last season, 4-16
in the conference. Former head coach Don Lofton, who has returned to
his old role as an assistant, encouraged Jones to return to the bench,
as did MC president Blake Thompson.
“I prayed about it. I talked with my family about it. It took a long
time to decide,” Jones said. “I waited and waited for a sign. The door
never closed. I think God was calling me to do this.”
The announcement was made in March. Once he got back on the court with
the players, Jones said, it didn’t take long for him to feel like he
was back in his element.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I didn’t realize until I got back out
there how much I missed the relationship with the players, teaching
them, motivating them, creating team chemistry. … I want to be there
for the guys, for basketball and in other parts of their lives.”
His first team will feature a lot of new players with limited D-II
experience. Senior Brandon Boston, a 6-foot-5 forward and the top
scorer (15 ppg) and rebounder (6.2) from the 2018-19 team, is the lone
returning starter. Dyllan Taylor was set to return at point guard but
will miss the season with an injury. Two players, Winceton Edwards and
Winford Ross, were named to the GSC Top Newcomers list. Edwards is a
transfer from Jones Junior College, while Ross comes in from Holmes
“We’re dealing with some crucial injuries, four guys we were counting
on,” Jones said as he prepped the team for exhibition contests at
Southern Miss and Ole Miss on Oct. 29 and Nov. 4. “But that’s part of
the game. We have to adjust to it. Other guys have to step up. That’s
how it works.”
MC lost both exhibition games against the Division I schools, falling
to Southern Miss 73-68 and to Ole Miss 69-43. The Choctaws rallied
from 19 down in Hattiesburg to put a scare in the Golden Eagles.
“You have to give credit to Mississippi College; they did a great
job,” USM coach Ladner said in a school release. “I love Coach Jones.
He was a big part of the program here. I thought his team did really
Boston poured in 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds against USM. Ole
Miss held him to nine points. Ross, a 6-7 forward, scored nine against
the Golden Eagles and 15 (with seven boards) against the Rebels. No
other player reached double digits in either game.
As he figures out who’ll play what roles and what combinations work
best, Jones said he’ll still be preaching defense and shot selection.
“That’s part of the plan,” he said. “But I think, to be a champion …
one-dimensional teams, two-dimensional teams don’t succeed very often.
Champions do a lot of things well. You’ve got to get the players doing
all those things and playing together to be a champion.”
MC was pegged to finish 11th in the 13-team GSC. The conference opener
is Nov. 23 in Clinton against West Alabama, one of the league
“I’ve got good kids, very respectful kids who’ve bought in,” Jones
said. “People are going to have to step up, but, yes, I like this
team. We’ve got some athletes. But they just haven’t been together
long enough yet. We’ve got to get better each day in practice. …
“If you know me, you know I don’t have expectations for moral
victories. We’ll play hard and we’ll try to win. That’s the goal.”