As the major college basketball season wound down to the Final Four, a new season started. It is now “open season” for signing up coaches, when athletic directors go hunting, not in the woods, but in gymnasiums, field houses, and wood-paneled offices.
Among the names being floated are, arguably, today’s two most successful coaches in the Ivy League, Yale’s James Jones and Tommy Amaker of Harvard.
Jones to Massachusetts?
Jones was mentioned after Derek Kellogg, despite a 155-137 record and one NCAA appearance in nine seasons, was fired on March 9th.
Shortly afterward Matt Vautour, a sports writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, of Northampton, Mass., published a list of names that he claimed “would make sense to be in the mix” at UMass. Those names included Yale’s Jones. The job with the Minutemen was thought to have been filled but is once again available.
Amaker to Georgetown?
Last week another high-profile job opened up when Georgetown fired John Thompson III. Almost immediately some well-known names popped up in the media as possible successors, such as former Georgetown and NY Knick star Patrick Ewing. And not to be taken lightly was the mention of Tommy Amaker by such publications as the Boston Globe, the Sporting News, and the SB Nation blog Big East Coast Bias.
The fiasco at UMass
Let’s get back to James Jones and whether Massachusetts might be interested in him. It looked like it became a moot question when Pat Kelsey, the coach at Winthrop University in South Carolina, agreed to take the UMass job. Or so everybody thought he would. Just prior to signing a formal contract, Kelsey had a change of heart, reopening the UMass vacancy.
Apparently, the only thing that could have tied James Jones into the list of possible replacements is that he is close to Ryan Bamford, the Minutemen’s Athletic Director and former administrator for basketball at Yale, where Jones is firmly entrenched.
Jones told Desmond Connor of the Hartford Courant that, despite the connection, he and Bamford “have not spoken in weeks” and he is not speculating on (the report). “Right now I’m focused on the off season . . . and think about how many days we are going to work out in the springtime and what we want to do, and get my freshmen on campus ready for summertime.”
Three of Jones’ dominating and exciting thoughts are of Miye Oni and Jordan Bruner, freshmen this year, and Mikai Mason, who will be a senior after not playing all of last season because of a foot injury. Those three portend a very strong Bulldog team coming up.
Jones was rumored to be leaving Yale two years ago
Jones’ name has come up before as about to be leaving Yale. Two years ago he was suggested by Adam Zagoria of SportsNet New York to be a prospect for the job at Fordham.
To which Jones succinctly responded at the time, “I have not interviewed and I have not applied for the job.”
He added, similar to what he is now saying, “I live in the day and in the moment and right now, my moment is at Yale.” Those “moments” have extended through 18 seasons.
Amaker found a home at Harvard
What could attract Amaker to Georgetown would be a return to the Big East (he once coached Seton Hall) and to the city of his roots, Falls Church, Va., which is less than ten miles from Washington, D.C., the home of Georgetown.
Amaker has coached at Harvard for nine seasons, leading the Crimson to five straight Ivy League titles or co-titles. His recent freshman class was generally considered to have been among the top 10 in the nation. His Harvard teams played in the NCAA Tournament four consecutive years and with two first round upsets.
He may want to stay where he is to avoid having his last game coaching Harvard being a loss to Yale in the semi-finals of the first Ivy League Tournament. He used the words “gut-wrenching,” “heart breaker,” and “devastating” in describing that game.
Coincidentally, if Amaker gets the Georgetown job he would be the second former coach to go there directly from the Ivy League. John Thompson III. previously coached at Princeton and had even played for the Tigers. The big dilemma for Amaker would be how could he turn away from Bryce Aiken, Chris Lewis, and Seth Towns, among those outstanding freshmen of 2016-17?
Conversely, how could Jones leave Miye Oni, Jordan Bruner and Mikai Mason behind?
Amaker was thought headed for Boston College in 2014
Just as Jones had once been rumored to be going to Fordham, Amaker was regarded as headed for BC. “I’m picking Boston College to hire Amaker next week,” the well-respected Dan Shaughnessy predicted in the Boston Globe. But for one of the few times, Shaughnessy was wrong. “Next week” never came. While Amaker may have been courted by BC, he finally felt compelled to issue a formal statement that he was remaining at Harvard. If he still feels that strongly in 2017, he may have to make a similar announcement again.
What next, if anything, for Jones and Amaker?
Maybe nothing will come of all this. The stories about Jones and Amaker conceivably moving on would probably not even have surfaced unless it was started in the media by someone, somewhere, perhaps on a slow news day. Even though unsubstantiated, the speculation has lingered to the point where the only way it will end is when Massachusetts and Georgetown make their new hires. Until then all names, including Jones and Amaker, are fair game.
After all, it still is “open season.”