Name: James Jones (since there are many James Joneses, let’s call him James F. Jones)
Current job: Head Coach Yale
Previous jobs: Assistant Ohio, Assistant Albany, Assistant Yale
Career head coaching record (conference record): 310-273 (169-111)
NCAA Tournament Appearances (record): 2 (1-2)
Evidence of recruiting skills: Recruiting at Yale is a different kind of animal, but, like Tommy Amaker, Jones has brought in the kind of talent to compete near the top of the Ivy League. Two of his recent players — Makai Mason, who transferred because Ivy League rules do not allow grad-level players, and Miye Oni — are likely NBA Draft picks this season. He has recruited prep schools (obviously), but also has cast a wide net for talent.
Items of interest: Jones spent four years in sales in the Albany area, after graduating from the University at Albany.
James Jones played high school ball in North Babylon and Dix Hills. Having recruited him for years, Jones and Yale almost landed New Haven star Tremont Waters — who went on to star at LSU. (The teams faced each other in this year’s NCAA Tournament).
The word is that Jones comes with Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s recommendation; Duke has played Yale three times, with Yale being competitive in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
On court: James Jones’ teams are hard to statistically pin down. The constants have been tough-minded play, good defensive rebounding, and recently, strong shooting inside the arc. The past two seasons, Yale was the 25th best and 12th best shooting team inside the arc nationally.
Jones seems to adapt to his teams, going from a slow-paced attack four years ago — the year Yale defeated Baylor in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament — to a high-speed attack this year to feature talented wing Miye Oni and guard Alex Copeland. Earlier seasons featured strong offensive rebounding. This season’s field goal defense was also ranked the 31st best per KenPom’s numbers.
That said, consistently struggles with turnovers, though they were better this season. On defense, Yale has not pressured the ball much, though they also avoid fouling.
Why he’d be a good fit: Well, Jones has certainly worked without the Big East resources and has been successful on the Ivy level — a league that consistently rates at or higher than the MAAC. (In fact, the Ivy winner has consistently received 12-14 seeds from 2007-2017, and again this season).
Without the leeway of bringing in junior college players or transfers, Jones has enjoyed six straight winning seasons, and 12 out of 20 overall at Yale. In conference, he has finished fifth once (his first year), has been at .500 four times, and over .500 in conference 15 seasons.
He can coach. He’s a New York-area coach. And for those concerned about a coach who will not want to leave, it’s hard to see this as anything but a reason to come home.
Why it wouldn’t work: The jump from recruiting at Yale to recruiting at St. John’s is a jump. Players won’t necessarily be attracted to the appeal of just the school — Jones has to sell them on being able to get them to the pros, to showcase them against the best.
Getting players willing to join him will require some work and likely more than one NYC recruiter to break the ice (Andy Borman has been mentioned, older coaches like Tim O’Toole or Tom Pecora could be of interest).
What style will Jones sell to recruits? Will he hire a high-level staff, or bring some Yale people with him? Is he ready to face and win over the donors (he is said to be good at that aspect of the job at Yale.)
What’s getting in the way: James Jones’ name was mentioned last week as well, and he may be a front-runner. Other candidates of interest could certainly be in play. Time — with St. John’s going on break for Easter — and the whims of the decision-makers is always a factor.
Final word: This would be an interesting hire, one that would make national pundits joke & raise their eyebrows a little (but not as much as when, say, Lavin or Mullin was hired). This hire may be a play to make St. John’s start getting some of those regional players once again.
Feeling is 60% on Jones being hired.