Jeff Jones has enjoyed over a decade of success as the head coach of the American University men’s basketball program and turned the Eagles into the most consistent team in the Patriot League over that time. The transformation of the men’s program culminated in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons as the Eagles made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division I Tournament, including the school’s first ever trip to the ‘Big Dance.’ In 2009-10, Jones eclipsed the 300 win plateau, adding one more milestone to an already storied career.
Jones led the Eagles to their fourth 20-win season in the last five years during the 2011-12 season, with a 20-12 overall record. American recorded one of the best home records in program history, posting a 12-game win streak in Bender that matched one set during the 2008-09 season, and finished the year with a 13-2 mark in Bender Arena. The Eagles concluded the season by hosting Buffalo in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Senior Charles Hinkle finished his career with All-Patriot League First Team and NABC Second Team All-District honors.
American finished its 2010-11 season with a 22-9 record, marking
the program’s third 20-win season in four years. The Eagles
also set program records with 12 wins away from Bender Arena and 11
non-conference victories, while advancing to the Patriot League
Semifinals for a conference-best 10th straight season. In the
team’s final game of the year, Vlad Moldoveanu became just
the 28th player in program history to eclipse the 1,000 point
plateau and fifth under Coach Jones, and finished his career at
American as a two-time All-Patriot League First Team honoree.
The 2008-09 Eagles enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history and capped the year off with a remarkable performance in the NCAA Tournament. American, led by its seven seniors, pushed Final Four participant Villanova to its limits, taking a 10-point lead into halftime and leading by as many as 14 points in the second half. Villanova eventually came back to win the game but not before the Eagles caught the attention of the nation.
American capped the 2008-09 season with a 24-8 overall record, matching the program record for wins, and a 13-1 mark against the Patriot League. The Eagles led the nation in road wins with 11 and their 59.1 points per game allowed ranked 11th in the NCAA. For his efforts, Jones was acknowledged as the Patriot League Coach of the Year and the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 13 Coach of the Year. Jones passed American coaching great Stafford Cassell along the way as the program’s all-time winningest coach and finished the season with 149 wins at American.
The highlight of an outstanding 2007-08 season was again a great performance in the NCAA Tournament. In the first round matchup in Birmingham, Ala., American played a tightly contested game against Tennessee, trailing by only one point, 50-49, with six minutes to play before the Volunteers pulled away. The Eagles appearance in the NCAA Tournament was the first in program history and was earned with a 52-46 win over Colgate in the Patriot League Championship Game. American went 21-12 on the year, marking the team’s first 20-win season since the 1989-90 season, and won its third Patriot League Regular Season Championship. Along the way American picked up a milestone victory, defeating regional foe and national basketball powerhouse Maryland in College Park, 67-59.
Jones has set the standard for coaching excellence at American and is the program’s all-time leader in wins with a record of 202-162. Jones has also guided American to four regular-season championships and five appearances in the Patriot League Tournament Championship Game. He has developed 21 players who have been named All-Patriot League, 23 players who have gone on to play professionally, two players who received the Patriot League Rookie of the Year award, Andre Ingram (2004) and Derrick Mercer (2006), and two players, Patrick Doctor (2002) and Derrick Mercer (2009), who earned the Patriot League Player of the Year award.
Such success reflects his impeccable basketball pedigree: A star
point guard who held the record for assists at the University of
Virginia, the Owensboro, Ky., native is a member of the Apollo High
School Hall of Fame. He is still the only person to win National
Invitation Tournament (NIT) Championships as both a player and
coach. It’s not an exaggeration to say that basketball is in
his blood: his father, Bob, coached Kentucky Wesleyan University,
leading the team to the 1973 NCAA Division II title.
One of the most respected teachers in the collegiate ranks, Jones left the University of Rhode Island, where he served as an assistant on Jerry DeGregorio’s staff during the 1999-2000 season, to take the helm of American basketball in April 2000, becoming the 17th coach in the school’s history. In just his second season at American, Jones led the Eagles to the second-best turnaround in NCAA Division I history, finishing with an 18-12 overall record. The 11-game improvement from 2000-01 was second only to Bob Knight’s Texas Tech squad that had a 14-game turnaround. The 18 victories were the highest win total for the program since 1989-90 (a performance the team would repeat in 2003-04), and its first winning campaign since 1990-91.
During the 2001-02 season the Eagles captured the Patriot League regular-season title, fashioning a 10-4 conference record in the process. The top seed in the league tournament, the Eagles advanced to the championship game only to fall to Holy Cross, 55-52, before then the largest championship crowd in league history and just the second sellout in the history of American’s Bender Arena. The game was also played in front of a national audience on ESPN. Earlier that same season American gained national recognition with a 77-72 win at Florida State, becoming the first Patriot League school to ever defeat a member of the renowned Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
During the 2002-03 season, Jones led the Eagles to a victory over cross-town rival George Washington and a regular season win over Holy Cross. The Eagles finished second in the regular season and reached the Patriot League Championship Game for a second time.
In 2003-04 Jones guided the Eagles to their second Patriot League regular season title in three years and led American to the Patriot League Championship Game for the third straight year. American finished with its third-consecutive winning season for the first time in 13 years and had a six-game winning streak for the first time in 14 years. The Eagles earned an invitation to the Rainbow Classic, where they went 2-1, including a win over NCAA tourney team East Tennessee State.
The Eagle Has Landed
Jones also led the Eagles to a winning season in 2004-05, as American finished with a 16-12 record and an 8-6 mark in the Patriot League, good for third place. With the winning record, Jones had guided American to above-.500 marks in four straight seasons--the first time that had happened since the 1974-75 season, when American completed a string of five straight winning seasons. Jones’s reputation helped the Eagles get invited to the 2004-05 Preseason NIT.
In 2006-07 a resurgent American team achieved a 16-14 record.
The winning record marked a period of nearly unprecedented success
at American, as five of the previous six teams had winning seasons,
a record accomplished only four times before in the team’s
Other notable 2006-07 achievements:
• The Eagles got off to their best start in 17 years with a 7-2 opening mark.
• Jones had a personal highlight with his 100th win at American when the Eagles knocked off Colgate in a thrilling overtime game.
• American went on to the Patriot League semifinals, where eventual league champ Holy Cross won on a last-second basket.
• Jones joined the exclusive 250-win club.
Other Career Highlights:
• When he became the University of Virginia’s eighth head coach at age 29, Jones was the youngest coach in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. In eight years at the helm, he compiled a record of 146-104 for a .584 winning percentage. He led Virginia to six postseason appearances (five NCAA, one NIT), one regular-season ACC championship, and four 20-win campaigns. Virginia’s win over Virginia Tech during the 1994-95 regular season gave Jones his 100th career victory, making him the second-fastest coach in school history and fifth-fastest in ACC history to accomplish the feat. He also directed the Cavaliers to five of their top six seasons for field-goal percentage defense.
• Virginia made its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons under Jones in 1996-97. Finishing that season with an overall mark of 18-13, the Cavaliers fell to Iowa in a West Region first-round game.
• The 1994-95 season saw Jones lead Virginia to a final
mark of 25-9. The program advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s
Elite Eight and earned a share of its first ACC regular-season
crown since 1983. Virginia finished that season ranked eighth in
the final CNN/USA Today poll, and 13th in the final Associated
Press media poll. Those were the highest final national rankings by
a Virginia team since 1983.
• In 1992-93 Jones became the only coach in conference history to win at least 20 games in each of his first three seasons. He led Virginia to a 21-10 record (9-7 ACC) and a trip to the 1993 East Region semifinals in the NCAA Tournament.
• In 1991-92, Jones’s Cavaliers posted a 20-13 record and went on to win the NIT championship. As a result, Jones became the first person to win an NIT title as both a player and a coach; he is still the only person to accomplish the feat.
• In his first season as head coach at Virginia, Jones led the 1990-91 squad to a 21-12 overall record. He was the only rookie coach in the nation that year to have his team in the NCAA Tournament.
Before his eight-year run as head coach, Jones was a full-time assistant on Terry Holland’s staff at UVa, from 1986 to 1990, a part-time assistant for three seasons, and a graduate assistant for one. During his eight seasons as an assistant, Jones was a part of the Cavaliers’ overall record of 162-95 (.630), participating in six NCAA Tournaments while advancing to the Final Four in 1984 and the Elite Eight in 1989. Virginia also competed in one NIT during his tenure.
A Big-Time Player
Before his coaching career, Jones made his mark on the national college basketball scene as a player. After starring at Apollo High School in Owensboro, Kentucky, he went on to become point guard for the University of Virginia from 1978-82. As a four-year starter for the Cavaliers, Jones was known as a leader and prolific passer. With Jones directing a potent offense, UVa compiled an overall record of 102-28 (.785) while he led the Cavaliers to two NCAA Tournaments and two NITs. Virginia captured the 1980 NIT title and advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1981. He graduated from Virginia in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology.
Jones finished his career as Virginia’s all-time assist leader (598) while also setting the single-season record with 200 assists during the 1979-80 season. Later, as head coach, he saw both of those records eclipsed by his own player, John Crotty. Jones served as team captain as a senior during the 1981-82 season and played in 129 games during his career. During that time he averaged 6.6 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Jones was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches 2007 Silver Anniversary All-America Team along with Dan Calandrillo (Seton Hall), Eric “Sleepy” Floyd (Georgetown), Pete Metzelaars (Wabash) and Ricky Pierce (Rice). The award is given to former collegiate stars who have gone on to distinguish themselves after their college careers.
Jones and his wife, Danielle, live in Arlington, Va. He is the father of three children, Meghann, Madison Perry, and Jeffrey Robert.
Year-by-Year Coaching Record
Year School Record Postseason
1990-01 Virginia 21-12 NCAA First Round
1991-92 Virginia 20-13 NIT Champions
1992-93 Virginia 21-10 NCAA Sweet 16
1993-94 Virginia 18-13 NCAA Second Round
1994-95 Virginia 25-9 NCAA Elite 8
1995-96 Virginia 12-15 --
1996-97 Virginia 18-13 NCAA First Round
1997-98 Virginia 11-19 --
2000-01 American 7-20 --
2001-02 American 18-12 --
2002-03 American 16-14 --
2003-04 American 18-13 --
2004-05 American 17-11 --
2005-06 American 12-17 --
2006-07 American 16-14 --
2007-08 American 21-12 NCAA First Round
2008-09 American 24-8 NCAA First Round
2009-10 American 11-20 --
2010-11 American 22-9 --
2011-12 American 20-12 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament
Record at AU 202-162 (.555) Three postseason apps.
Overall Record 348-266 (.567) Nine postseason apps.