Coronavirus victim Dwight Jones left a legacy in Detroit as a coach and humanitarian

dwight jones photo

By Joel Alderman

Holy Redeemer High School in Detroit was a basketball powerhouse in its day. The school functioned for 123 years and when it closed in 2005 the Catholic community there was generally caught unaware and a lot of disappointment and anger were expressed. Moviegoers old enough may remember a 1987 film, “The Rosary Murders,” that was taken at the parish.

It wasn’t easy for Dwight Jones to make a name for himself as an athlete at the school. “I was the only black male in the building, so I had to shine in so many ways,” he said in 2018 ( “The experience gave me a tremendous start. I knew I had to focus my mind on education and I knew I was going to college. Athletics is only a means to an end.”

After high school, he went to Tennessee State University in Nashville. There he met his future wife, then spent most of the rest of his 73 years as a coach and athletic director at Detroit’s Mumford High School before coronavirus struck and took his life on March 29th.

Played basketball in college for two seasons

Dwight Jones

Dwight Jones played at Tennessee State for two seasons.

Jones received a scholarship to Tennessee State University in Nashville, which a host of future pro football, basketball, and track stars attended before and after he did. Even Oprah Winfrey went there. It is one of the country’s noted Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Jones played a moderate amount, but not a lot of basketball for two seasons and met Helen, a fellow student to whom he would be married for 50 years. She survives him as well as do a daughter, Kia, and a granddaughter.

As a basketball player, he may have left his best days at Holy Redeemer. It really is of minor significance that his college career was unspectacular. In 1968 he played in 10 of the teams 11 games, in which it went 3-8. He scored 98 points for a 9.9 average. The following season, his senior year, when the Tigers had a 14-12 record, he only got into ten games and made just 27 points. So far, we have been unable to ascertain why he played so little.

Friends and associates feel the loss

The news of Jones’ passing has been difficult for friends and associates to process. Detroit native and longtime coach, Brcari Alexander, on Twitter, wrote, “Detroit Mumford will never be the same.”

Brandon Jiles, a current high school track coach who played for Jones, said “Anything involved with basketball in the city, he was a part of it. I’m always going to keep the things he told me to do close to heart. He taught me a lot just about professionalism, winning the right way, and just running a great program.” (Jared

His career devoted to Mumford High School

Shortly after college Jones began his career at Mumford High School where he taught physical education, coached girls’ and boys’ basketball, and served as athletic director for a time.

The news of his passing has shaken the school’s community. Jones had a positive effect on so many in his 49-plus years at Mumford High School. His name was perpetuated in 2016 with the naming of the Dwight Jones

Helped Mumford by attending ”Final Fours”

One of his voluntary “assignments” was to attend the NCAA’s Final Four each year, no matter where it was played. He was not there just to see the games. Larry Moore, a long time friend and former player, said he “was always getting vendors to send things to Mumford – basketball machines, scorer’s tables, chairs for the benches, uniforms … Detroit only allocated so much money for athletics, and of course, it was never enough.” (

Moore estimates that his friend went to 30 to 40 Final Fours. This year there was no final four, due to the pandemic of course. There were no games. There was no tournament. And, sad to say, even if there was, Dwight Jones would not have been there. He died about the time the finals would have been played.

Former college basketball players who died from coronavirus

March 22, 2020 Alerxis Demby, 34, Caldwell
March 23, 2020 Lee Green, 48, St. John’s
March 23, 2020 David Edwards, 48, Georgetown, Texas A&M
March 24, 2020 Jonathan Duck, 50, Iona
March 29, 2020 Arnold Obey, 73, Wagner
March 29, 2020 Dwight Jones, 73, Tennessee State
March 31, 2020 Harvey Sheff, 59, Yeshiva
April 1, 2020 Ted Vartelas, 89, Uconn
April 6, 2020 Marty Derer, 56, Rutgers-Camden
April 15, 2020 Matt Gras, 46, Siena
April 22, 2020 Ed Siegel, 87, Franklin
April 28, 2020 Charles “Duffy” Jernigan, 61, Eastern CT

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