Frank Jones has ridden off into the coaching sunset once again.
Jones, who returned to the sideline to coach the East Hamilton boys’ team, officially confirmed what three sources at the school said earlier in the day: that he has quit as the Hurricanes’ coach after one season.
“I’ve decided to step away from coaching basketball and it wasn’t an easy decision but is the best decision for me,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “I was in a great situation and didn’t think for a minute that it was a mistake to take the job last year.”
Jones said he has no immediate plans for what comes next for him but will continue his church work and spend more time with his family.
Each of the three sources said “yes” when asked if rumors were true about Jones leaving his job with the Class 3A Hurricanes, who compete in the tough District 5-3A.
Brent Eller, the school’s principal was out of town and did not respond to an email seeking comment on this story. Athletic director Keitha Booker did not answer a message left on his phone.
It was left to Jones, the former Riverside High School standout who played collegiately at Tennessee Tech where he was an All-OVC selection three straight years, to erase any doubt about his decision to quit.
The personable Jones was hired in May 2018, replacing Rodney English after he was forced to resign following the 2017-18 season that ended with a 50-45 loss to Riverdale in the Class 3A sectionals.
Jones had retired from Hamilton County Schools in 2009 but came back one year later as an administrator on special assignment at East Hamilton.
The Hurricanes went 22-10 this past season and senior guard Cam Montgomery was selected as the District 5-3A Most Valuable player and was joined on the all-district regular season team by teammates Jamaal Walker and Morrell Schramm.
East Hamilton won 11 of 12 District 5-3A regular-season games as the Canes and Blue Raiders split the two-game series. East Hamilton won by 14 points and Cleveland by 20.
The Hurricanes went into the postseason as the No. 1 seed and squared off with the Blue Raiders in the tournament championship game at Soddy-Daisy High School. The game was decided in overtime at the final buzzer with Cleveland pulling out the 56-54 win.
East Hamilton regrouped to defeat Cookeville and Stone Memorial and earn another shot at the Blue Raiders in the Region 3-3A tournament title game. Again, the Blue Raiders beat the Canes, 57-49.
East Hamilton then dropped a 61-59 decision to Oakland in the sectionals, missing out on what would have been the team’s second trip to the state tournament. English guided them to state in 2017 where the Canes lost Memphis East, 76-56, in the quarterfinals.
Ironically, Memphis East defeated Cleveland, 76-56, in the quarterfinals this past March.
Jones played on some of the great Riverside teams coached by the legendary Dorsey Sims – Jones helped Riverside beat Howard, 60-53, in the 1972 state championship game at Vanderbilt – and his play at Tennessee Tech led to his being drafted by the NBA’s Buffalo Braves in 1976.
Jones retired from Hamilton County Schools in 2009 and returned in 2010 in his “special assignment” at East Hamilton. After retirement, he worked at Ooltewah Middle and Central High until retiring again in 2017.
He taught and coached basketball at Kirkman from 1978 until 1990 and coached and served as athletic director at City High until 1993. Jones coached girls’ basketball at Tyner for the 1993-94 season and boys’ basketball at Howard – Riverside’s fierce rival – until 2000.
His next assignment was as assistant principal at Brainerd and earned a promotion to principal in 2004, using that as a bridge to retirement in 2009.
“You know, anytime you do something that changes what you’ve been doing for some time, there are some tough parts about that,” Jones said. “I didn’t expect it (coaching at East Hamilton) to be all gravy and I enjoyed working with the kids. We did well and they have a good nucleus coming back. The program is in good shape.
“I’ll wait and see what comes next for me but at my age, 6-4, I’m not looking for anything over the long term.”
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)