Tony Jones spent eight games last season leading Tennessee in the interim while Bruce Pearl served an eight-game SEC suspension for violating NCAA rules and misleading investigators. For the associate head coach Jones, it was an interesting time to be getting experience as a college head coach for the first time. After all, he too was named in the notice of allegations and was forced to accept a pay cut from the school.
With Pearl out, there was no way Jones was going to be retained after the season, and as a sign of how far you can fall when tied to rule-breaking, Jones today accepted a new job as a high school coach. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, he'll coach at Alcoa High School while teaching health and physical education classes.
"I am truly blessed," Jones said. "I'm so excited about this opportunity. I get to keep my family in the area, I get to teach and work with young people in a classroom setting, and I get to coach in a special community at a great school."
Former Vols coach Bruce Pearl, who along with Jones and the rest of his immediate staff were dismissed in the wake of an NCAA investigation, fully endorses the hire.
"I think it's an absolute blessing for Tony and his family and the people of Alcoa,'' Pearl said. "I don't know the people who made that decision, but my hat is off to them.
"They may be excited about what they're getting, but they have no idea what they are getting in full."
Teaching America's high school students in no way is something to be looked down upon, but on the basketball front it is a lower level of competition Jones is accepting. It isn't easy finding another major job in college coaching when you're tied to Pearl these days, especially after you've had to plead your case in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Pearl's other two former assistants, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay, are now coaching together at Northwest Florida State College -- a junior college. Pearl is left looking for work as well after all he achieved at Tennessee.
Exile from Division I basketball can't be any fun once you've tasted coaching at the top. But Jones will get another opportunity to lead young men and return to his roots. From 1986 to 1991, Jones coached at Detroit Southwestern High School as an assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach. Success there led to a Division I career.
It can happen again at Alcoa, just south of Knoxville.