UCF’s Donnie Jones Out As Head Coach Following Tournament Loss

Donnie Jones probably needed a miraculous run to the championship by his UCF Knights in the American Athletic Conference Tournament this weekend to make it to next season. A first round exit sealed his fate.

Following a 65-63 loss to Tulane on Thursday, multiple sources have confirmed that Jones is out as head coach after six seasons with UCF. Since joining the American three years ago, the Knights are 15-40 in conference play and 37-54 overall, forcing new athletic director Danny White to make a change.

“After a great deal of thought and deliberation, we have determined that a change in leadership for our men’s basketball program is necessary,” White said.

“Donnie and his staff have been dedicated to ensuring our student-athletes become successful young men, and we are grateful for their hard work and dedication to UCF, our students and the entire Knights community over the past six years. However, our athletics department, university and community expect our men’s basketball program to compete for American Athletic Conference titles and make regular postseason appearances, and unfortunately, we have not reached these expectations.”

White has shown he means business in the short time he has been at UCF. Earlier this week, long-time women’s basketball coach Joi Williams was fired. He also replaced the polarizing George O’Leary as football coach earlier this year. The former college point guard certainly has basketball in his blood (his brother, Mike, is also the head basketball coach at the University of Florida), and he vows to turn the basketball program around.

“We’re going to move quickly to find the right coach to lead our program and bring championships to UCF.” White said. “We don’t have a set timeline but we’re going to be thorough and ensure we have the right person to lead our student-athletes.  I’d like to thank Donnie and his wife Michelle for their many positive contributions to UCF.”

Jones was well liked by many media and fans alike for his very personable, approachable attitude, but ultimately the play of the Knights over the last three seasons, particularly down the stretch this year, cost him the opportunity to continue with UCF.

“I’m extremely grateful for the young men I had a chance to learn from and help reach their dreams during my time at UCF,” Jones said in a statement.

Jones had a 79-88 record at UCF in the past six seasons. The icing on the cake was surly the embarrassing loss to Tulane in front of the hometown crowd at the Amway Center. The usual issues plagued the Knights against the Green Wave; turnovers, poor shooting, and a lackluster start sent UCF packing on day one of the conference tournament for the second straight year.

The Knights had beaten Tulane twice already this year, and were hoping for a repeat big performance by senior guard Daiquan Walker, who shined in their first two contests. Instead, UCF committed 21 turnovers, and shot under 36 percent, including 25 percent in the first half.

Sophomore guard A.J. Davis led the Knights with 20 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Adonys Henriquez added 15 points. Louis Dabney paced Tulane with 13 points and was one of four Green Wave players to finish with double-digit scoring.

Despite the poor offensive effort, UCF stayed close to the Green Wave because of its defensive effort, trailing by just eight at halftime.

In the second half, Henriquez quickly got the Knights back in to the game, scoring seven of UCF’s first nine points. Henriquez recorded 12 of his 15 points in the second half, and Davis followed suit scoring 13 of his game-high 20 in the second.

The Knights actually held a six-point lead with 4:40 remaining in the game, but Tulane answered with a 10-0 run of its own, retaking the lead for good and holding off the Knights’ last minute charge.

The Knights finished the year 12-18 overall and 6-12 in the AAC.