James Jones, who begins his 16th season at the helm of the Yale program in 2014-15, is one of the most successful coaches in Ivy League history. Jones’ 117 Ivy victories are the fourth most in league history, and his 209 overall wins are the third most. In addition, Yale has a .557 winning percentage in league games during his tenure, by far the highest in school history.
Jones, the longest tenured coach in the Ivy League, is the winningest coach in school history. He surpassed Hall of Fame Coach Joe Vancisin, who led Yale to 204 victories, when the Bulldogs beat Holy Cross on Mar. 22, 2014. Presently, only 19 other coaches in all of Division I have been at their institution longer than Jones has been at Yale.
The Bulldogs have won at least 10 Ivy games twice during Jones’ tenure and have had a fourth-place or better finish in the Ivy League for 14 straight years. Jones has guided Yale to the postseason three times - the 2002 NIT and the 2012 and 2014 CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The Bulldogs reached the championship game of the CIT in 2014.
Jones was the named the CollegeSportsMadness.com Ivy League Coach of the Year in 2014 after guiding the Bulldogs to 19 wins and a second-place Ivy League finish. In addition, he was a finalist for the 2014 CollegeInsider.com Ben Jobe Award, which is presented annually to the top minority coach in Division I men's basketball.
In 2001-02, Jones led the Bulldogs to their first Ivy League title since 1962-63 and the first postseason tournament victory in the 107-year history of Yale basketball. The team won 21 games, the second most in the modern era of Yale basketball, and reached the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Jones’ success did not go unnoticed. He was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year by Basketball America and CollegeInsider.com. Following Yale’s weekend sweep of Penn and Princeton that season, Dick Vitale selected Jones as his Coach of the Week.
Jones was named Yale’s 22nd head coach on Apr. 27, 1999, and he immediately put his stamp on the program as the Bulldogs more than doubled their Division I win total from the previous season and improved to fifth place in the Ivy League. In 2000-2001 the turnaround continued as Yale entered the final weekend of the regular season in the hunt for the Ivy League championship. The captain of the 2000-01 team, Neil Yanke, signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. Jones recruited Yanke to Yale as an assistant coach and then was his head coach for two years.
In 2001-02, Jones guided the Bulldogs to one of the most memorable seasons in school history. Yale finished 21-11 and earned a share of the Ivy title with Penn and Princeton. The Bulldogs upset Rutgers in the first round of the NIT before falling to Tennessee Tech at the New Haven Coliseum in front of the largest crowd ever to watch Yale Basketball in New Haven. In the process the Bulldogs set five school records. The 2,394 points scored was a new mark, topping the 2,089 scored by the 1948-49 team. The Bulldogs also set new records for three-pointers made (228) and free throws made (558).
Several of Jones’ players have gone on to play professionally overseas, including Ted Smith (England), Matt Minoff (Israel), Paul Vitelli (Italy), Dominick Martin (Spain), Matt Kyle (Portugal), Caleb Holmes (Iceland), Ross Morin (Switzerland), Eric Flato (England), Greg Mangano (Spain) and Edwin Draughan (France). In addition, Alex Zampier (NBA D-League), Travis Pinick (NBA D-League) and Reggie Willhite (NBA D-League) have had professional opportunities in the United States.
Draughan, who graduated in 2005, was one of the most successful players in Yale history. He finished seventh all-time at Yale in scoring with 1,413 points and second in steals and fifth in assists. Mangano also made his mark at Yale under Jones’ tutelage. Mangano, a two-time first team All-Ivy selection, is Yale’s all-time leader with 213 career blocked shots. In addition, he was invited to the 2012 Portsmouth Invitational and played for Team USA at the 2011 World University Games in China.
Five assistant coaches who worked under Jones have gone on to become head coaches - Rob Senderoff (Kent State), Isaiah Cavaco (Oberlin), Mark Sembrowich (Academy of Arts University), Mark Gilbride (Clarkson) and Ted Hotaling (New Haven).
One of Jones’ goals when he took the job was to upgrade Yale’s schedule, a promise he has delivered on. In 2013, nationally ranked Florida visited the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs also have hosted Stanford (2008), Wake Forest (2003) and Penn State (2001) during his tenure. In addition, Yale has played in numerous prestigious tournaments under Jones, including the preseason NIT, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and the inaugural Guardians Classic.
Jones has enjoyed remarkable success against major conference opponents. In 2008-09, Yale knocked off Oregon State, the school’s first win ever over a Pac-10 opponent. Jones also has enjoyed victories over schools from the ACC (Clemson, Boston College), Big East (Rutgers), Big Ten (Penn State) and Atlantic 10 (Rhode Island) during his tenure.
Jones has gained experience with USA Basketball in his time at Yale as well. He served as an assistant coach to Villanova’s Jay Wright for the 2007 USA Basketball Men’s Pan American Games Team, helping tutor Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert, Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel and Indiana’s D.J. White. In 2006, Jones was selected by the USA Basketball Men’s Collegiate Committee, chaired by Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, as a court coach for the 2006 USA Men’s U18 National Team Trials.
Jones also has shared his insight with college basketball fans, serving as a guest analyst on the CBS College Sports Television Network on a number of occasions.
In addition to his coaching duties, Jones has been active in the New Haven community. Each summer he runs the James Jones Bulldog Basketball Camp. In 2002 he was the recipient of the President’s Award from the Greater New Haven NAACP at its 85th Freedom Fund dinner.
As an assistant coach at Yale for two seasons from 1995-97, Jones gained a great understanding of Ivy League basketball. He returned to Yale as head coach after two years as an assistant coach at Ohio University, where he was primarily responsible for coordinating the Bobcats’ recruiting efforts and developing the post players. In 1998-99 he helped guide Ohio to an 18-10 overall record and a berth in the Mid American Conference Tournament semifinals. At Ohio, he recruited Brandon Hunter, who was a second round pick of the Boston Celtics in the 2002 NBA draft.
A Long Island, N.Y., native, Jones served as an assistant basketball coach for five seasons (1990-95) at his alma mater, the University at Albany (N.Y.). In his final two coaching seasons at Albany, he helped lead the team to a 44-11 record and two appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including reaching the Elite Eight in 1993-94. His primary responsibilities included recruiting, scouting, supervising the fall conditioning program and advising team members on academic matters. The team was 93-40 during his five seasons on the bench.
Jones graduated from Albany in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and in 1995 earned his master’s in educational administration. As a player at Albany, Jones was captain of the freshman team and was selected as the team’s Freshman of the Year. He played for and coached with the legendary Dr. Richard Sauers, one of only seven collegiate coaches to win more than 700 games.
Jones is an active member of several organizations, including the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Black Coaches Association.
Before entering the coaching profession, Jones served as an executive account manager at NCR Corporation in Albany, N.Y., where he managed a $1.5 million sales territory.
James’ younger brother Joe spent seven seasons the head coach at Ivy League rival Columbia and is currently the head coach at Boston University.