The latest NCAA Tournament run for Johnny Jones has been special in more ways than one.
Jones, who has led Texas Southern deep into March for the third time in the last four seasons — winning tournament games in each of the last two postseasons — gets to share this current journey with his son, John Jones, a starting guard on the team.
This is a period Johnny Jones has always wanted to experience since John first picked up a basketball and took instruction from a father who has spent four decades in the sport.
“I’ve been a Division I basketball coach since he was born, so I never got to do the AAU stuff or anything with him and his friends,” said Johnny Jones. “It’s always been kind of on the side and doing individual skill work. Now to have a chance to coach him, it’s really been special and a lot of fun or whatever for me. And even more than I could have expected.”
Johnny and John Jones have been together the last five years, the last four at Texas Southern, bonding over basketball.
John had longed to play for his dad in college. When Johnny was let go by LSU in 2017, he was hired as an assistant at Nevada. There, John joined him as a freshman. When Mike Davis left Texas Southern after the 2018 season, Johnny replaced him. John soon followed.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve been blessed to be put in a position to do it now,” Johnny Jones said. “And to have him around for the — because he played one year when I was an assistant out at Nevada. And when I got the job, he played three years for me. And that’s all I had left.”
John, who is averaging 5.8 points in 13.2 minutes per game in his senior campaign as part of a Tigers team that is playing in the round of 64 for the second consecutive postseason, also relishes the time spent on the bench and buses with his father.
The guard played nine minutes in Texas Southern’s First Four win versus Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.
“It’s putting my dad and me in a different light,” John said. “I always held him in high respect, but it’s been increasing over the years and it’s been a blessing for five years, including my year at Nevada, to play under my father.”
As the two prepare for what is likely their last basketball game together as a player-coach duo ahead of the team’s Midwest Region matchup against No. 1 seed Kansas on Thursday night, Johnny reflected on the road he and John traveled together.
“This has really been good for us and really for him,” the longtime coach said. “It’s something that I’ll certainly cherish for the rest of my life.”