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June 12, 2012

HUGHES NEWS & VIEWS: Point of Jones’ return

‘Changing the culture’ is coach’s 1st priority

TERRE HAUTE — Since May 14, Indiana high school basketball fans have wondered why Jim Jones would want to come out of retirement at 74.

If you hadn’t heard, that’s when the Springs Valley Community Schools Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to approve Jones — a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame with 679 coaching wins over 45 seasons, according to indianahsbasketball.homestead.com — as the successor to Josh Thompson at Springs Valley.

Jones was hired on a two-year contract, according to minutes from the board meeting posted on the Internet.

Thompson, a graduate of Bloomfield High School, was not retained after posting records of 6-17 in 2007-08, 3-18 in 2008-09, 6-17 in 2009-10, 10-12 in 2010-11 and 5-16 in 2011-12. Thompson will be head coach at Wood Memorial next season.

Jones, who retired from Terre Haute North in 2008 after capturing a Class 4A sectional championship with a team that finished 11-13, ranks sixth on the state’s all-time victories list, although Lawrence North’s Jack Keefer is only two behind him at 677. Sitting at No. 5 is Bill Patrick, still active at Tippecanoe Valley, with 693.

Former Terre Haute South coach and current Cloverdale head man Pat Rady is tied for third with Bill Stearman at 714, nine behind the legendary Howard Sharpe.

But Jones insists, convincingly, that numbers such as these played zero part in his decision to return to the bench.

“The only thing I’m concerned about is those young people who are here,” he told me over the phone. “Our goal is to win a sectional. Hopefully, we can change the culture here.”

Springs Valley, a Class A school, has not won a sectional title in boys basketball since 1998. It has experienced only one winning season (14-10 in 2003-04) this century.

Jones, a graduate of Oolitic High School and a resident of Jasper in recent years, guided teams to championships in 25 sectionals, six regionals and the 1983 semistate with Princeton. He first became a head coach in 1963 at Springs Valley — where he stayed for 11 seasons and helped mold a young Larry Bird — before heading to Princeton and North.

“Looking around [the Springs Valley area], that’s where I started and I had a lot of great relationships here,” Jones reflected as he continued to explain the appeal of returning.

Jones said he initially planned to advise Thompson behind the scenes at Springs Valley next season. But when that option was no longer available, he started thinking that coaching again wouldn’t be so bad.

“[Thompson] had done a great job,” Jones emphasized. “That league they play in [Patoka Lake Conference] is a tough league to get wins in.”

Todd Woelfle, who succeeded Jones as head coach at North and played for Jones in the 1990s, is one person glad to see him back.

“It’s exciting to have someone with the basketball knowledge that coach Jones possesses around high school basketball again,” Woelfle said. “He still has a passion for the game of basketball. He just loves the game.”

Jones and his wife Joyce have six grandchildren and four great-grandsons that he enjoys seeing, but he still thinks he can find the time to coach 2-4 more seasons.

“I’ve lost a little weight,” he mentioned. “I’ve been playing golf 2-3 times a week. I feel very good.”

The 600 club

• All-time winningest Indiana

boys basketball coaches

Source: indianahsbasketball.homestead.com

Coach (seasons so far)    Wins

1. Jack Butcher (45)    806

2. Howard Sharpe (46)    723

3t. Pat Rady (48)        714*

3t. Bill Stearman (47)    714

5. Bill Patrick (43)        693*

6. Jim Jones (45)        679*

7. Jack Keefer (40)    677*

8. J.R. Holmes (42)    669*

9. Basil Mawbey (38)    659

10. Jim East (43)        653

11. Marion Crawley (32)    644

12. Jim Miller (36)    607

13. Gene Miiller (37)    605*

* — active

David Hughes can be reached after 4 p.m. by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at david.hughes@tribstar.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.

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