Following a season in which he led Yale back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and became a finalist for the St. John’s coaching job, James Jones was rewarded this week with a contract extension that will keep him in New Haven until the conclusion of the 2025-26 season.
A Dix Hills, N.Y. native, Jones returns to Yale after having interviewed for the head coaching job at St. John’s last month.
Jones played at Albany from 1982 to 1986 and later returned to his alma mater as an assistant from 1990 to 1995. At Albany, he was mentored as a player and coach by Richard Sauers, one of seven collegiate coaches to win more than 700 games. He then spent two years on the staff at Yale under Dick Kuchen before working the next two seasons as an assistant at Ohio. At the end of the 1998-99 campaign, Jones was picked to replace Kuchen as Yale’s 22nd head coach.
Yale went 7-20 overall and 5-9 in the Ivy League during Jones’s first season at the helm. While his team was 10-17 in his second year, the Elis went 7-7 in the conference. That 2001 Ivy result would be the first of 19 straight top-four conference finishes for his teams.
In 2002, Jones’ Bulldogs were tied for first in the Ivy League with an 11-3 mark and made it into the second round of the NIT Tournament.
In his 20 years at Yale, Jones has amassed a 310-273 (.532) overall record and a 169-111 (.604) mark in the Ancient Eight. He holds school records for tenure, wins and winning percentage. His 310 total victories tie him with former Penn coach Fran Dunphy for second-most in Ivy men’s hoops history. He was named Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016 by the Ivy League and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 13. After the 2015-2016 season, he also won the Hugh Durham Award, which is presented by CollegeInsider.com to the nation’s best mid-major coach.
Jones has four Ivy titles (two outright) and five post-season appearances as a head coach. His 2013-14 team made it to the finals of he CIT Tournament, while his 2015-16 squad upset Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and almost beat No. 4 Duke in the second round. That team, which went 22-7 and 13-1 in league play, earned the school’s first bid to the Big Dance since 1962.
Title IX and sports administration experts have observed that Yale Athletics, including Jones, appeared to ignore departmental policy on three occasions by allowing former Yale basketball player Jack Montague to become team captain and avoiding any disciplinary actions to the player after two violations of school policy that preceded his expulsion from the university in 2016 after being found to have violated the school’s policy on sexual misconduct.
Montague controversy aside, Jones led the Elis to a 22-8 record, a share of the Ivy League regular season title (10-4) and its first Ivy League Tournament championship last season. He also received the Ben Jobe Award, given by CollegeInsider.com to the top minority coach in Division I men’s basketball, and was named a finalist for the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award, which honors coaches who achieve success on the basketball court and display moral integrity off of it.
Two of Jones’ players from this past season, junior Miye Oni and senior Alex Copeland, were named first-team All-Ivy selections. In addition, Oni was named Ivy Player of the Year and is presently attending the NBA Combine with the hope that he will become the first Ivy athlete chosen in the NBA Draft since 1995.
After interviewing for the vacant St. John’s job this April, Jones discussed his affection for Yale with the New Haven Register.
“Yale’s a wonderful place,” Jones said. “I have the best kids on the planet. We’ve built something really special here, and we’re committed to improve where we are.”
“I am thrilled that James will remain a Yale Bulldog! James and his family have not only been model citizens at Yale but to New Haven and the surrounding local communities as well,” Yale athletic director Vicky Chun said in a release. “With James at the helm, the future of men’s basketball at Yale will continue to win the right way.”