In the aftermath of a historic season that saw the Yale men’s basketball team win its most games since 1949 before ending without a postseason bid, rumors of another potential gut punch to the Elis swirled around Wednesday afternoon.
SportsNet New York reporter Adam Zagoria floated Yale head coach James Jones as a potential candidate for the recently vacated coaching job at Fordham University. But Jones, having just completed his 16th season at the helm of the Elis, firmly denied any connection to the job opening.
“No, I don’t know where he’s getting his sourcing but I did not interview for the job,” Jones said. “I have not interviewed and I have not applied for the job.”
Zagoria’s report comes on the heels of Fordham’s firing of coach Tom Pecora on March 18. On March 21, Zagoria first linked Jones’ name to the vacancy on Twitter before following up with a tweet on Wednesday that listed Jones as well as three other names as “among those to interview for Fordham.”
In an interview with the News, Zagoria reasserted that his sources connected Jones to the position and that he had already interviewed.
Zagoria went on to say that Jones’s dismissal of such claims made sense, as it seemed unlikely to him that Jones would receive the job, and coaches do not like being rumored as leaving their current teams.
When reached for comment, both the Fordham Athletic Department and the firm hired to oversee the coaching search — Parker Executive Search — refused to comment on an ongoing matter.
Jones, who was recently crowned as the inaugural Ivy League Coach of the Year, was steadfast in his denial of Zagoria’s reports. In fact, Jones said that he was about to meet with Director of Athletics Tom Beckett to discuss a potential contract extension and expressed his commitment to his players.
“I have not applied [to the Fordham job]. I am not a candidate,” Jones said. “I don’t want kids in my current program — those are the kids I worry about most — to think that I’m going somewhere and that I’m not going to be there for them … We have a lot more to accomplish.”
As far as his current contract, the terms of which are not made publicly available, Jones said there are four years left on his current deal.
Beckett did not disclose any specific details but did say the administration is fully supportive of Jones and implied that talks of an extension have begun.
“Yale is extremely proud of James Jones, his staff and students and everything the Yale basketball program represents,” Beckett said in an email to the News. “We want Coach Jones to be our head coach for a long time and we have had conversations with him about this objective.”
Jones, a Long Island native, is the longest-tenured coach in the Ivy League, and his 16 years rank 15th in the nation across all 351 Division I schools. As such, the rumors certainly startled some of his players.
Forward Justin Sears ’16, the Ancient Eight’s Player of the Year, said that members of the team learned of the report on Twitter but paid no more than “five or 10 minutes” of attention to what it might mean. Ultimately, Sears, who attributed Jones’s sustained tenure as a major reason for his choosing Yale, had confidence that Jones would be back patrolling the sidelines come the start of next season.
“He said he’s staying here for his four years with us,” Sears said. “He’s looking forward to next year as far as we know, so we’re not worried about any of that.”
Jones addressed his players on Wednesday in a team meeting to discuss plans for the offseason without even acknowledging the rumors, according to multiple players on the team.
Guard Makai Mason ’18 admitted that the team would be disappointed should Jones leave, but that such a decision is out of the team’s hands. In the end, Mason said Jones should do what is right for him and his family.
“We can’t really control any of that. I’m sure we’d understand if he decided to leave,” Mason said. “He [says] that we should be competing for championships every year and that’s what we’ve done my first year and if he stays, we’ll continue to do that.”
Though Jones sports a losing record overall at 231–232, he has shone in Ivy League play, with a 128–96 mark. Since his second season back in 2000, Jones’s teams have finished in the top half of the Ancient Eight in 15 straight seasons, including two league championships.
Despite having just led Yale to that second title and returning significant talent next year, the Fordham position does offer alluring benefits.
The Bronx campus would not only provide a workplace in Jones’s native state, but also the opportunity to coach college basketball in a city known as one of the meccas of the sport.
Additionally, the Atlantic 10 conference, which the Rams have called home since 1995–96, has elevated its status in the college basketball landscape significantly over the past decade. This season marks the eighth straight season in which the league has sent at least three schools to the NCAA Tournament.
Just last year, a conference-record six schools advanced to March Madness, tied with the likes of the powerful Atlantic Coast and Big 10 Conferences. For comparison’s sake, the Ivy League has never sent more than one school to the Big Dance in basketball’s 58-year-long history in the league.
Jones did not rule out the possibility of considering the right job if it were to come along. He said any coach would do the same, though he said such a situation is unlikely and his focus is elsewhere.
“There are certainly jobs out there that you look at and say, ‘God, that’d be a great job,’” Jones said. “But for me, I live in the day and in the moment, and right now, my moment is at Yale.”
The Rams have languished in the Atlantic 10, having not made the NCAA Tournament since joining the conference. Fordham has established itself as a bottom-feeder in the league, having finished in last place 10 times in the past 19 seasons.
Jones is the winningest coach in Yale history and is among 16 finalists for the 2015 Ben Jobe Award, presented annually to the top minority coach in Division I men’s basketball.
Correction: March 26
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the head coaching record of James Jones. He is actually 231-232, with a 128-96 record in Ivy play.