AJ Rompza faced Marshall University on the basketball court and didn’t enjoy it much. That team hustled, rebounded and had fun and Hassan Whiteside blocked a bunch of shots.
“I hated playing against them,” Rompza said. “Those guys played as hard as anybody in the country.”
A few weeks later, Rompza, then a sophomore guard at Central Florida, discovered why Marshall did what it did. Central Florida hired coach Donnie Jones away from Marshall in 2010. Rompza played his final two seasons for Jones.
“He’s the type of coach you want on your side — you don’t want to be playing against him,” Rompza said. “Everything he does is to the max and I loved that.”
On Wednesday, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall hired Jones as assistant coach. He replaces Chris Jans, who took the head coaching position at New Mexico State on Monday. Jans, a week ago, replaced Greg Heiar, who is now an assistant at LSU.
So it’s been a busy time for WSU, which lost its two longest-tenured assistants in the span of a week. Jones appears to check every box Marshall could want in his new hire.
Jones,50, brings head-coaching experience, more recruiting ties in the South — an area increasingly important to WSU — and in-depth knowledge of the American Athletic Conference.
The fact he’s coached NBA players such as Whiteside, Al Horford, David Lee and Joakim Noah and won two NCAA titles at Florida is also helpful.
“I’ve known Donnie for over 20 years,” Marshall said in a news release. “He’s not only one of the great coaches, but one of the great people in our business. We have talked about potentially working together for many years. We are getting a very qualified, professional college basketball coach.”
Jones’ annual salary will be $200,000, according to athletic director Darron Boatright.
“I look forward to joining the Shocker family and to continuing the winning tradition,” Jones said in a news release.
Jones spent the past season as a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers. He was coach at Central Florida, a member of the American Athletic Conference from 2010-16. He also coached three seasons at Marshall University.
He worked for 11 seasons at Florida as an assistant under coach Billy Donovan, now coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Florida won NCAA titles and 2006 and 2007.
Jones and Gregg Marshall share Marshall University in their backgrounds.
Jones worked as an assistant coach at Marshall University from 1990-96. He left for Florida with Donovan in 1996. Greg White took over as head coach and hired Gregg Marshall as an assistant. Gregg Marshall worked there for two seasons before going to Winthrop as head coach.
Rompza calls Jones a motivator and a player’s coach. He pushed Rompza by comparing parts of his game to former NBA player Jason Williams and recommending ball-handling drills that Williams used. For Central Florida big men, Jones would tell them how Horford and Noah refined their skills.
“He’s so into his players,” Rompza said. “It’s almost like he has a different relationship with each guy. He always wants the best for his players.”
Jones went 100-88 at Central Florida. The Knights won 20 or more games in his first three seasons as a member of Conference USA. The school joined the American Athletic Conference in 2013 and struggled to three losing seasons before he was fired.
Central Florida’s move to the AAC got off to a bad start due to scholarship reductions stemming from a 2011 NCAA investigation into the school’s football and basketball teams for improper benefits. The athletic director and an assistant football coach were fired over the issue; Jones served a school-imposed three-game suspension during the 2011-12 season.
Family: Married to Michelle. The couple has three children — Madisyn Michelle, Sophie Louise and Donald Isaac.
Background: Jones is a West Virginia native who attended Pikeville (Ky.) College. As a senior at Pikeville, he averaged 10.7 assists.
Coaching experience: Jones went 55-41 in three seasons as head coach at Marshall (2007-10) and 100-88 at Central Florida from 2010-16.
His 2011 team played in the College Basketball Invitational. Michael Jordan’s sons Marcus and Jeff played on that team. The Knights played in the NIT in 2012.
Jones also worked 11 seasons at Florida as an assistant coach. He won NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007.