Mike Jones, head coach for men’s basketball at Radford University, has a full schedule. When he’s not running practices or looking over game film with the rest of his staff, he’s playing the role of father and husband at home. Radford is Jones’ first gig as a head coach at the Division I level. Few know, however, that he’s been coaching for nearly half of his 46 years.
After gaining national attention as an assistant coach under Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth University during the Rams’ magical Final Four run in early 2011—a feat dubbed the greatest Cinderella story in collegiate basketball—Jones signed on in June as the Highlanders’ head coach.
In this interview with the man who is leading one of the major contenders in Big South basketball, we find out what Coach Jones does when he’s not on the floor or locked away in his office at the Dedmon Center.
Matt Halberg: When did you first realize that you wanted to do what you’re doing right now?
Mike Jones: I always knew that I loved the game, so when I finished playing at the age of 23, after college was over, I thought I’d give it a try. When I tried it, I loved it.
MH: Growing up, who was your favorite professional athlete, and why?
MJ: Muhammad Ali. It was because he was so confident. Everyone likes confidence, and he exuded so much confidence in his ability to make what he wanted to happen in the ring, happen. The thing I admire most about him was that, as famous as he was, he loved to let everyone know that he was a common man, just like everyone else.
MH: What’s your favorite meal, including an appetizer, entrée, a side and dessert?
MJ: [Whistles] My wife, Sharon, makes this killer Caesar salad with Craisins and croutons, with parmesan cheese in it. For the main course I like some good soul food: fried pork chops with macaroni and cheese, and collard greens. For dessert my wife makes something called “cookie stuff.” It’s like baked cookie dough with ice cream on top.
MH: Tell me more about your family.
MJ: My wife and I have been married almost 18 years, and we have two boys. The 14-year-old, Nate, goes to Radford High, and the fifth-grader, Miles, is at Belle Heth Elementary.
MH: Growing up, who are the two people who had the greatest impact on your life?
MJ: My grandmother and my father, really. I used to spend my summers in Louisiana with my mother’s mother. She was a huge influence on me. My first year of coaching, she passed away, but she was a big influence. My dad taught me how to be successful. He was very hard on me growing up, and then when I got into college he flipped the script and became my friend. [Jimmy Jones was a guard who played professional basketball for 10 years with the ABA and later in the NBA with the Washington Bullets.]
MH: What is your favorite thing to do when you have a day off?
MJ: Great question. Well, I get teased for not having any hobbies. I’d say it would be hanging out with my kids shooting some basketball in the driveway. Other than that, playing Madden with them or watching a movie.
MH: Speaking of, what’s your favorite movie?
MJ: “The Godfather.” It’s a tie between Part I and Part II. It’s hard to separate the two.
MH: Favorite music artist of all time?
MJ: The Roots. I love The Roots. I love their style, their music. I love the way Black Thought raps.
MH: Favorite color?
MH: Favorite soda?
MJ: Ginger ale.
MH: Do you have a favorite professional
MJ: Oh yeah, I’m a big L.A. Lakers fan. I love the Lakers. I grew up watching Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and in my opinion they’re the greatest point guard, power forward and center of all time.
MH: What’s something that the average RU basketball fan, or even someone who works in the office, doesn’t know about you?
MJ: That I love Johnny Cash music.
For more on Coach Jones and all the Highlanders, visit the RU Athletics website.