Janell Jones begins her first year as the head women's basketball coach at UCSD in 2005-06 following a seven-year stint in the same capacity at Oklahoma City University. She becomes only the fourth head coach in the 35 year history of the program at UCSD. The winningest coach in OCU history, Jones was part of four NAIA Division I National Championship teams (two as head coach and two as assistant) and posted an incredible record of 175-14 (.926). Her squads never finished a season with less than 32 victories. This year Jones takes over a UCSD women’s basketball team which finished 17-10 and 13-7 in the CCAA. Jones recently took time before practice to discuss the upcoming season and what we can expect from the team this season.
Q- Have you had any time to explore San Diego?
JONES- At the beginning I did, but since school has started, no. I know where the gym is and I know where my apartment is.
Q- Do you miss anything from Oklahoma?
JONES- In Oklahoma you have seven-11’s, Sonics, and gas stations on every corner. Here you don’t. I have to be more aware of not running out of gas and it is not as easy finding fast food in San Diego. The other thing I miss in Oklahoma is my son who is a junior in college.
Q-What are your objectives for the basketball program?
JONES- It is a journey and process of where we want to take the basketball program. We want to contend for the conference title and then compete at the national level. A goal of mine is to have my teams at a highly competitive level each year. The other goal is for the student-athletes to have a great experience... to leave here with a value of work-ethic and team spirit. I hope the student-athletes enjoy the time in the program and form friendships and share laughs together. At the end, they can look back and see how these traits made themselves a better team and better people.
Q- Do you feel any pressure following Judy Malone?
JONES- I think I feel the most pressure in that the school has won 29 National Championships and women’s basketball has not won one of them. That’s the pressure I feel.
Q- How did you get into coaching?
JONES- I had a high school coach who was a mentor for me. He asked me to assist him one year, and that’s where I began to have an interest in coaching. I started out as a physical therapy major. After working two weeks in a hospital, I found out that I could not handle all of the blood and injuries. I received my degree in science , which I love, but decided to get into teaching. I was not sure where it would lead, but I did know that I enjoy being around kids. I then started coaching at the junior high level and began taking on different coaching opportunities.
Q- Are there any players on the team that may surprise people this season?
JONES- I think some will be surprised by freshmen Meaghan Noud and Michelle Osier. Briana Hinga is also playing well. The returners are also working very hard and I think people will see that in their games.
Q- What will a Janell Jones basketball team look like on the court?
JONES- I like to categorize that by describing it as a UCSD women’s basketball team. I think one of the things I emphasize is the work ethic. We are going to work hard, and outwork anyone we play. The team will be in great condition, strong and tough-minded. No matter what happens, we are going to push until the end. What I typically like to do is play aggressive defense and score points off turnovers... getting up and down the floor. I enjoy the uptempo ballgame... it’s fun for the girls. If they are working hard everyday by running and conditioning, then they should be able to show that on the court. That’s what we are striving for right now.
Q- Have the players commented on any differences from the previous years?
JONES- Several of the players have commented on how we are going 2.5 hours of practice at a very hard level with only a few breaks. I haven’t asked a lot of questions, but from the few comments I have heard, the players say it is definitely different than the past... some from high school, but this is what college basketball is all about. The best thing is that the players have responded and embraced what we are trying to do here... working hard, the toughness, trying to stretch themselves, and that’s one of the things they have had to do more than anything. Being able to stretch themselves physically and mentally is one of the pieces that will turn UCSD basketball into what we want it to be.
Q- Have you selected captains this season?
JONES- They were selected last year and they are Kim Buffum, Leora Juster and Hillary Hansen. Another great leader with her work ethic is Alexis Mezzetta. She does not have the title of captain, but brings a lot to the team in leadership and how hard she works day-in day-out.
Q- Does coaching run in your family?
JONES- I’m the only one who has coached at the collegiate level. My brother has coached soccer in Fort Worth and my sister coached junior high. I’m the only one who pretty much lives and breathes coaching basketball.
We all played sports growing up. We also lived on a farm and had to do the chores that comes with it. That translated to what it takes to work as a team and get things done. I would say both of my parents, my father especially, instilled that in me.
Q- Have you seen a difference in the athletes here at UC San Diego versus other places you have coached?
JONES- I think part of being a coach is taking a team... whoever they are, whatever they’re like, and your job as a coach is to coach, whatever you are given. There are advantages and disadvantages to all. I’ve had better athletes, but this group... work ethic is great. I haven’t had to push them as much as some other teams. This team is smarter and with that, you can make adjustments that I couldn’t with other teams. There are several things that this team can do, that other’s could not. Obviously as a coach, you are always saying, I wish I could have this, I wish I could have that... Wishing for the perfect team with the perfect athletes is not going to happen. I think as a coach, you take whatever team you have, you work with them and make them the best players they can become... to put a team on the court that will compete, night-in, night-out. We will continue to recruit players who will continue to make UCSD a better program.
Q- Is there one specific piece of advice that has helped you as a coach?
JONES- I have some close friends that I talk to a lot about coaching. I think a lot of coaches miss the boat as far as getting caught up in X’s and O’s... in the long run it’s the intangibles and relationships that carries a lot further into the season than anything else. Remembering that it is the process and journey that sheds the rewards. Coaches get hung up on the wins and losses and forget to enjoy the journey. I enjoy being around my players and love the game of basketball. We are going to work hard together, laugh, I get to yell at them, it’s all a part of the key in athletics and that’s relationships.
Q- Did the team make you wear any costumes on Halloween?
JONES- I have that taken care of. Part of being a head coach is that I can delegate that to my assistant coach. Todd Eilert dressed up. I’m not sure what he was, but Meghan McGovern is his partner and she’s dressing him up. Last I heard it was Clint Eastwood in some movie. I really don’t see Todd as a Clint Eastwood guy, but we will see.