James Jones goes the other way; his contract as Yale coach is extended to 2026 and he is looking for more landmarks to conquer

By Joel Alderman

The dean of Ivy League coaches is about to extend his reign. In a climate in which college basketball coaches are looking over their shoulders for fear their won-loss records, the prevalent recruiting scandals, and the lure of better paying jobs cause them to move on, it is refreshing to note that a member of the coaching fraternity has just been signed to a contract extension through the 2025 – 2026 season.

It means that James Jones, who this year tied Joe Vancisin for longevity as Yale’s mentor (20 seasons) is virtually guaranteed to remain at the New Haven school for at least seven more years. This year his Ivy Leaguers were co-winners, with Harvard, of the league title, then won the conference tournament, and played in the NCAA’s “Big Dance” for the second time in four seasons.

The Bulldogs finished with a 22-8 mark and gave the regional third-seed, LSU, a scare before losing, 79-74 in the national tournament.

Yale followers had a brief period of apprehension recently about Jones when he agreed to be interviewed by St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg. But the position there was taken almost immediately by former Arkansas and Missouri coach Mike Anderson.

Jones before Yale

Jones, who turned 55 on Feb. 20th of this year, graduated from the State University of New York at Albany in 1986 where he earned a Masters in Education. He played four seasons at Albany, coached by Doc Sauers, and then served as his assistant for five seasons. He went on to work under Dick Kuchen at Yale and Larry Hunter at Ohio before taking his present and only head coaching position at Yale in 1999.

James Jones is the older brother of Joe Jones, now the coach of Boston University and formerly at Columbia. While Joe was at Columbia he and James faced each other several times as unique coaching rivals.

Recognition well-deserved

In 2015 Jones was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. He was named the Ivy League and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 13 Coach of the Year in both 2015 and 2016. Recently he was the recipient of the Ben Jobe Award, presented by to the top minority coach in Division One.

Jones’ success at Yale, since he started there in 1999, has resulted in 310 career victories, in and out of the league. It tied him in second place with former Pennsylvania (and later Temple) coach Fran Dunphy for most total victories while serving as the head of an Ivy team.

While Jones is certain to pass Dunphy in the runner-up position, he would be out of reach of Pete Carril, without going well beyond the term of his new contract. Carril, noted for his “backdoor plays” and ball control offense, coached at Princeton from 1967 to 1996, where his teams amassed 514 victories.

Ivy League winningest coaches (all games)

Pete Carril, Princeton – 514 wins

Fran Dunphy, Pennsylvania – 310 wins

James Jones, Yale – 310 wins

Jones now has seven years to go higher and alone in second place. He has already been assured of being in good company and his name has been firmly established in Yale basketball annals.

He has a veteran team returning, which may be helped to no small extent if Miye Oni, who declared for the NBA draft, should decide to come back for his senior year.

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