Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
His father was a coach. His mother was a coach. His uncle has been an NBA coach for most of his life. So naturally, Brad Jones grew up wanting to be a dentist.
But biology and chemistry courses in college burned him out so much he took a year off between graduating and dental school, and his college coach asked him to assist for a year with the basketball team that he had captained.
Jones never went to dental school.
He later became head coach of that Lambuth (Tenn.) University basketball team and had five 20-win seasons with two Mid-South Conference titles and two coach-of-the-year awards, the school's first national tournament appearance, and married the women's basketball coach. He was also assistant athletic director there.
This week, you can see Jones sitting on the Utah Jazz bench helping Jazz assistants Ty Corbin and Scott Layden run the Rocky Mountain Revue team and familiarizing himself with the players and the system.
That's because Jones will coach the Jazz's new NBA Development League affiliate, the Utah Flash, which begins play in Orem in November and will steadfastly run the Jazz system.
Jones is the guy that the Jazz's Revue players sit next to when they come out of the games; he gives them suggestions and pointers.
"This is just a super perk and really not only will help the Flash organization but help myself," he said.
It gives him the chance to learn Jazz coaching close-up and "develop a relationship and a trust" with Revue players who could end up with his Orem team, such as 7-foot-1 Kyrylo Fesenko, a 20-year-old Jazz draft-day second-round acquisition who has tremendous potential but needs to learn the NBA game. The Jazz must decide whether to leave Fesenko at home in Ukraine for a year or sign him soon and begin working with him as a project, either in Salt Lake or Orem.
"Boy, is he talented," Jones said of Fesenko, whom he'd love to have on the Flash. "Yeah, I'm his No. 1 fan. Of course, you know what? He doesn't want to play for me. None of these guys want to play in the D League, and I appreciate that."
Others interviewed for the Flash coaching job, but general manager Dave Fredman, who moved to Utah with the Jazz from New Orleans in 1979, said he knew immediately that a Jazz-savvy Jones would be the man for the job.
Jones, you see, literally grew up on Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's system and knows the ins and outs almost as well as the assistant coaches. He used it when he was at Lambuth.
Sloan's late wife Bobbye was Jones' aunt, and Jones spent summers playing with the Sloan children in McLeansboro, Ill., and attending Sloan's basketball camps with Jerry's son Brian in Chicago and McLeansboro when Sloan was the Chicago Bulls coach.
"I would definitely say that had something to do with my interest in basketball," Jones said. "I was real close with his kids. We saw each other regularly, as much as cousins see each other, during the summer," Jones said.
Jones' father was a football player and later offensive coordinator at Austin Peay University, and his mother started the girls sports programs at his high school, which used to be an all-male private school near Nashville. His parents were the biggest influence on his sports; Sloan was next.
When Jones began coaching at Lambuth, Sloan told him, "'You need to come out to training camp. It's a great experience.' That was 1992 or '93," said Jones, who's been attending Jazz training camps ever since and began coming to the Revue with Jerry when Bobbye had her first bout with cancer about five years ago.
He was always a part of the coaches' meetings before practices and Revue games, but now he's on the bench, too.
"I'm actually on the floor with them. It's the absolute best. I don't know if you could have a better staff to learn from. They're basketball geniuses," Jones said. "I don't get excited about a whole lot of things, but just sitting there and listening to the way they do things, it's just unbelievable."
When Jones' wife, Lori, was offered the job at Southeastern University in Louisiana, the couple left Lambuth. At about the same time, the NBA Hornets were moving from Charlotte (N.C.) to New Orleans, and the Jazz needed an advance scout in the area, so Jones signed on to go to future Jazz opponents' games and provide reports to Utah's coaching staff on what to expect.
Since 2003, he's been teaching in the SLU kinesiology department as well.Lori will retain her position at SLU while he coaches the Flash, so the couple has been lining up nannies for their three children. That's the scariest part about his first pro-coaching job. He's not worried about the coaching part. "I'm excited about proving to people that Brad Jones can go out and do what they expect him to do. I feel confident with the basketball stuff. I don't doubt that one bit," he said.
Rocky Mountain Revue
at Salt Lake Community College
2:15 p.m. Dallas vs. San Antonio
4:30 p.m. Seattle vs. Chicago7 p.m. Atlanta vs. Utah
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