Less than five weeks after being named athletic director at American University, Dr. William "Billy" Walker has a new item for the top of his to-do list: finding a new men's basketball coach.
On Thursday, Old Dominion will announce it has hired Jeff Jones, who went 212-182 in 13 years at American with two appearances in the NCAA tournament. AU refused comment, but ODU athletic director Wood Selig confirmed the move Wednesday afternoon on a Norfolk sports radio station.
ODU, which is headed for Conference USA, fired 12-year coach Blaine Taylor in February for unspecified reasons when the Monarchs were at the bottom of the standings in their final year in the CAA, on their way to a 5-25 mark.
Jones is coming off his worst season at AU (10-20) since his first year with the program. Losing at Army to close the year marked the first time in his tenure that the Eagles fell in the opening round of the Patriot League tournament. In four of his previous five seasons, however, Jones had led the Eagles to 20 or more wins. Jones did not return a message left on his cell phone Wednesday.
This will be the third head coaching job for Jones, who went 146-104 at Virginia, where he played point guard for a Final Four team in 1981 and nine years later became the youngest head basketball coach in ACC history at age 29.
Jones and Selig had an association when the ODU athletic director was an athletic administrator in Charlottesville. According to message board traffic, the move to Jones has not been well received by the rabid ODU fan base. Even with its lack of success this year, ODU's average attendance (5,118) was at least 1,400 more than any other school in the CAA.
With the move to Conference USA, which was designed to boost the school's young and ambitious football program as it advances to the FBS, the basketball program is in a state of flux. Five of last year's top six scorers are expected back, however, a nice base of experience in which to build.