Donnie Jones and I had a sometimes spirited chat about my Monday column within the past hour, and I will give him some space here.
First, he pretty much hit the roof over my reference to the “Benedict Donald” nickname, and I understand. A few of his family members didn’t take kindly to it. I even apologized to Jones … though I must point out he should have heard that nickname by now. It took, what, 15 seconds to come out after reports of his hiring?
Jones denies, in the strongest terms, that he and UCF had been in contact before Marshall’s elimination from the CBI. I told him the same thing I’ll say here: I don’t buy it for a minute. That would have made the process as short as four days … no way, no way, no way. Bear in mind that UCF AD Keith Tribble is a Florida grad and a former assistant AD there.
(Please keep in mind: ADs always have a short list of coaches and a loaded Rolodex. Always.)
When Marshall struggled to beat Western Carolina and got smoked by Appalachian State, I really thought something amiss. When he was linked to the UCF job, I connected the dots. Shoot, I’m thinking his head was in Orlando when Marshall fell to Tulsa at the C-USA tournament. (Bear in mind, Kirk Speraw had shoveled the last bit of dirt on his stay the night before, when the Knights got waxed by UTEP.)
Jones tells me some Marshall fans are flying down to “support me,” and I do know a lot of Thundering Herd fans who harbor no ill will. But I don’t think Jones realizes the statement he made when he jumped ship to a conference rival. (One mitigating factor: This isn’t 1985, when the visitors’ bench sat in front of the student section, and the students showed little mercy.) I don’t see a warm, fuzzy visit to Huntington for Jones in March.
There shouldn’t be. I’ve long since gotten over coaches leaving for greener pastures (sure beats seeing them get fired), but a West Virginia native bolting for a top conference rival? Could you imagine Rick Huckabay defecting to Chattanooga, back in the day?
Conference USA’s first basketball media day is Monday. Hmmmm …