Donnie Jones was introduced as the 27th head coach in Marshall history on Apr. 7, 2007. Now in his third season, Jones has compiled a 31-31 record.
Jones became the 10th Marshall coach to begin his Thundering Herd career with a 3-0 start in 2007. Two of those three victories were against teams that were picked to win their respecitve conferences. MU later earned victories against eventual NCAA Tournament teams, San Diego, and Winthrop round out the majority of its non-conference schedule. Jones' squad ended his inaugural season with a 16-14 record, marking the first Marshall winning season in seven years. The Herd went 8-8 in Conference USA and had a chance to earn a first round bye for the C-USA Tournament in the final regular season game. The eight wins were four shy of matching Marshall's C-USA win total from the previous two years combined.
The buzz in the community resonated heavily the summer before the rookie head coach's inaugural season and became more evident when MU's attendance increase ranked the 14th highest in the nation. His second squad saw Jones' Herd earn a 15-17 overall record and a 7-9 mark in Conference USA play. Marshall tied for sixth in the conference and entered the C-USA Tournament as the No. 7 seed. The community support continued as Marshall drew over 5,000 to the Cam Henderson Center eight times, the most since the 2000-01 campaign (12).
The Point Pleasant, W.Va., native previously worked as a graduate assistant and assistant coach with the Thundering Herd from 1990-1996. Following his first stint at MU, he spent 11 seasons at the University of Florida with head coach Billy Donovan, where Jones helped the Gators to three Final Fours and back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. Jones, who was retained as an assistant coach at Marshall when Donovan was hired as the Herd's head coach in 1994, assisted in all phases of coaching - from off-campus recruiting, practice planning, on-floor coaching to scouting. Jones worked with Donovan for a combined 13 years at both Marshall and Florida.
Jones played a key role in UF's recruiting and player development that led to a school-record nine consecutive NCAA appearances, three Final Fours, four Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles, three SEC Tournament titles and the only two national titles in UF history. The 1999 and 2000 teams made the first back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in school history and the 2000 squad made the first-ever appearance in the National Championship game. Combined with UF's Final Four runs in 2006 and 2007, the Gators are one of only five teams to reach three Final Fours in the 2000s and last year were joined by Kansas as the only squad in that span to play for the national title multiple times. The 2006 Gators became the first UF team to win the national title, doing so in dominant fashion by defeating their six NCAA Tournament opponents by an average of 16 points. Florida produced even more history on April 2, 2007, as the Gators became the first team in 15 years to repeat as national champions and only the second team to do so in the post-Wooden UCLA era.
The Gators were 261-103 (.717) during Jones' 11-year stint in Gainesville and posted more 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances (nine each) than UF did in the 77-year history of the program prior to the staff's arrival. For a program that experienced success in pockets, but never on a consistent level until now, Jones was responsible for helping the Gators lure some of the most attractive recruiting classes in college basketball to Gainesville. During his years at UF, the Gators signed 11 McDonald's High School All-Americans and boasted consensus top-five recruiting classes in five out of his last nine years at Florida.
Jones served on the Marshall staff for six years. He was a graduate assistant at Marshall in 1990 and earned his master's in sports management in 1992. He was then promoted to assistant coach and was involved in all aspects of the basketball program, assisting with scouting, the conditioning program, film exchange, on-floor coaching and serving as Thundering Herd's summer camp coordinator.
Prior to his arrival at Marshall, Jones worked for two years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Pikeville College (Ky.). As a member of the Bears' staff, Jones was responsible for scouting, recruiting, preseason conditioning, on-floor coaching and the school's summer basketball camps. Jones also worked in an administrative capacity in the admissions office while at Pikeville.
Jones earned his bachelor's degree in business education from Pikeville in 1988 after setting several school records during a stellar basketball career. He set school marks for most assists in a game (21), season (276) and in a career (513). Jones served as the team's captain as a senior, finishing second in the nation in the NAIA with 10.7 assists per game.
During his career, Jones played with two-time NAIA All-American Todd May, who averaged 40.1 points per game and helped Pikeville to its first 20-win season in 11 years. Jones was inducted into the Pikeville Hall of Fame in the summer of 2004. In addition, he was recognized in Who's Who among college students.
Jones is married to the former Michelle Gibson of Salt Rock, W.Va. They have three children, daughters Madisyn Michelle and Sofie Louise, and a son, Donald Isaac.