In the upcoming issue of Finest Magazine things will be done a little differently. Yes the focus will remain on local talent excelling in the game of basketball of course, however, instead of focusing on players the next issue will shine light on the individuals who walk the sidelines....the coaches. Coaches are the heart and soul of any program. They put their philosophy, personality and pretty much everything else into building a quality program. Players no matter how talented, can only go so far without the lessons of the teacher on the court, the coaches. Michael Jordan once said this regarding his college coach at the University of North Carolina, the late great Dean Smith "A lot of people say Dean Smith held me to under 20 points a game. Dean Smith gave me the knowledge to score 37 points a game and that's something people don't understand." In issue nine, I asked numerous coaches throughout the DMV area from all levels to be a part of this special issue, to share their various philosophies on evaluation of players, X's and O's and ultimate goals as coaches, short and long term.
Next up is DeMatha Catholic Head Coach Mike Jones. One of the top coaches in the country regardless of the level. His resume speaks for itself with multiple WCAC, DC City and Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament titles, USA Developmental National Team Gold Medals (USA U16,U17) and Nike Hoop Summit victories. Jones has also sent countless players to play collegiately and at the pro level as well, including Victor Oladipo (Indiana/Orlando Magic), Jerami Grant (Syracuse/ Philadelphia 76ers), Quinn Cook (Duke/2015 NBA Draft Prospect) and Jerian Grant (Notre Dame/ 2015 NBA Draft Prospect). Along with his accomplishments as a coach, Jones was a standout player as a guard for DeMatha and Old Dominion before playing professionally in the CBA and overseas. When it comes to basketball, Jones has seen it all. I had the pleasure of catching up with Coach Jones to learn what pushed him towards coaching, what he looks for in a player to determine if he is DeMatha material and what goes into his preparation game in and game out. Below is an excerpt from the full interview with Mike Jones.
"We pride ourselves on being prepared for any situation possible. We go over so many late game situations daily, we want our guys to be able to anticipate what us as coaches are thinking. We definitely work hard on implementing a game plan that is specific to our opponent. Our guys get exactly the type of information that they'll get in college and beyond. Our guys are used to that level of preparation and intensity when they get to college." - Mike Jones
FM - What factors led to you becoming a basketball coach?
MJ - I have loved the game for as long as I can remember. I thoroughly enjoyed playing basketball and when I wasn't playing, I was watching or reading about it. There was no internet and all of these rankings but I would find any magazine or hood report that I could and just study. When I stopped playing, I knew that I wanted to be a coach. My last couple of seasons playing, I really watched what the coaching staff did and really tried to pick the brains of all of them.
Fortunately, Coach Wootten had long ago talked to me about being a coach. He was the first person to call me when I was finishing up my last season overseas.
FM - Did you ever envision being the head coach of such an elite program like DeMatha?
MJ - I honestly never considered being the Head Coach at DeMatha as an option. I truly thought that I would come back and learn under Coach Wootten for a few seasons and then move on to college. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time as Coach was ending his career. Many opportunities have come to go to college and beyond, but I feel so fortunate to have the job I have and to work with the kids in the school that I do!
FM - When you are in a gym evaluating players what are the traits you look for that lets you know that a particular player could be a good fit for the DeMatha program?
MJ - We see tons of kids every year. Every coach is looking for talent. So do we. We also look at things that some won't: attitude - but not just what you say or how you act, BODY LANGUAGE is something that tells us a lot. How you react when things aren't going well. Then we also want to gauge how much they'll grow so looking at the parents is something that gives us an idea. We have a pretty accurate formula that'll indicate how tall a kid will get.
FM - When a game approaches, what are the things you focus on to make sure your team is 100% ready to play?
MJ - We pride ourselves on being prepared for any situation possible. We go over so many late game situations daily, we want our guys to be able to anticipate what us as coaches are thinking. We definitely work hard on implementing a game plan that is specific to our opponent. Our guys get exactly the type of information that they'll get in college and beyond. Our guys are used to that level of preparation and intensity when they get to college.
The entire interview will be in the upcoming issue of Finest Mag 9, coming in late June