Mike Jones: Competitive Spirit Is What Separates Great Players From the Rest
DeMatha Catholic High School (Md.) head coach Mike Jones has had the great fortune over the years of seeing players he has coached go on to the next level. That has been true not only at DeMatha, but also in his experience with USA Basketball. Last April, he coached the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Select Team to victory in the Nike Hoop Summit. Several of the players on that squad are currently freshmen at major programs such as Duke, Arizona and Kansas.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” said Jones, who is entering his 13th season as head coach at DeMatha. “Just being able to turn on the TV, whether it be a young man that I coached here at DeMatha or a young man that I coached with USA Basketball, it’s always a pleasure to watch their growth. Those guys are so talented.”
While being able to coach talented players is one thing, another aspect of the job that Jones relishes is getting the behind-the-scenes access as his kids grow up.
“You get to see the part that the rest of the world doesn’t get to see. You see them at the hotel, you see them at the practices. They’re kids and a lot of people look up to them, but they’re still 17 and 18 years old, still so giddy about everything, getting excited about things. That’s something most people don’t get to see.”
Jones’ DeMatha squad begins practice for the 2014-15 season on Nov. 7. His team finished 29-6 last season. Five times since taking over the program, Jones has led the Stags to a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title. It’s the continuation of a long run of success at DeMatha that goes back to Jones’ playing days there.
Jones was a standout player on the 1991 team that went undefeated his senior year. He went from there to a successful college career at Old Dominion University. By then, he had already learned plenty from the man he would ultimately replace at DeMatha, legendary high school coach Morgan Wooten.
“Playing for Coach Wooten, I can’t imagine a better experience as a high school basketball player,” Jones said. “He’s been recognized as one of the best coaches ever – not only one of the best high school basketball coaches ever. A lot of people say he’s one of the best coaches period, at any level of any sport. And being able to be around him over the course of four seasons, four years when I grew into a young man, to have him guide me through that, the experience was invaluable.
“So many things that I learned on the court, but you can multiply that by 10 for the number of things that I learned from him that have nothing to do with basketball. As a young coach coming up, and having him be my mentor, clearly I was very blessed. I could not have had a better person to play for than Morgan Wooten.”
Now Jones is in the position of being a mentor and role model to other aspiring young basketball coaches. It is a role he does not shy away from, speaking often at coaching clinics. When he does, he likes to open with a line he picked up from Coach Wooten:
“If you look up the word ‘coach’ in the dictionary, one of the definitions is ‘a carriage pulled by horses.’ What he meant was that no matter how great a coach you think you are, you still have to have players and whatever you’re doing, it has to fit what your players are capable of doing. No matter what, you’ve got to take your system and adapt it to what your personnel is capable of accomplishing.”
Jones is also quick to remind young coaches that while winning is not the only thing, it is very important.
“I strongly encourage younger coaches, especially ones that are coaching young kids, to please keep the game fun but also make sure that they understand that it is a competition, and as they grow up having that competitive spirit in them is going to separate them from a lot of other potential student-athletes,” Jones said.
“If you talk to NBA guys, they look for guys with the motor that are going to bring it every night and compete. You talk to college coaches, they’re looking for the guys with the motor that are going to compete night in and night out. Even with us, the guys we’re looking to bring into our program, that’s one of the most valuable things we can ask a guy. He can be super-talented, but if you don’t play hard all the time, that becomes a problem. We always want someone who will compete at the highest level every chance they get.”
Have a question for Coach Jones? Go to Facebook or Twitter now to submit your questions and Coach Jones will answer them in a feature that will run on USAB.com Friday. Be sure to use hashtag #AskCoachMike.