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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Emmett Jones welcoming his unexpected opportunity as KU football’s interim head coach

Kansas receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones coaches from the sideline in this file photo from the  2020 season. KU named Jones the football team's interim head coach on March 11, 2021.

Kansas receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones coaches from the sideline in this file photo from the 2020 season. KU named Jones the football team's interim head coach on March 11, 2021.

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Emmett Jones didn’t envision getting an opportunity at this point of his career to lead the Kansas football program. But as the Jayhawks’ interim head coach explained in his first interview since accepting the position, Jones is welcoming his current unexpected circumstances.

“This time last year, I never had a clue, never even would’ve thought about it,” Jones said on an episode of “The Jayhawker Podcast,” hosted by Wayne Simien.

But when KU and former head coach Les Miles parted ways earlier this month, following reports of Miles’ sexual harassment scandal when he was the head coach at LSU years back, KU had to find someone to run the program — and it needed to happen quickly with the start of spring practices on the horizon.

When interim KU Athletic Director Kurt Watson placed Jones in charge, the receivers coach and passing game coordinator said he didn’t want that to change his approach as a coach.

“The way I look at it, it’s just a title change,” Jones said. “I’m always a responsible guy, thinking 10 steps ahead. I always have my eyes on next month. I’m just in a different office. Now everything is just amplified. I’m the face of the program along with the coaching staff, along with these kids, because it’s players first.”

As Jones explained on the podcast, his philosophies on building relationships with players were established years back, when he was working his way up through the high school coaching ranks in the Dallas area.

His approach to building a football program, Jones said, involved making sure the players understood him and his expectations for the team. Jones said connecting with the players was part of that, too.

“Being a genuine person and investing as much as possible to the kids that are in the building,” Jones shared of his methods, dating back to his time at Dallas Skyline and South Oak Cliff high schools. “And that’s showing true love — not just football love, not just sports love. I mean showing true love to get true buy-in.”

As Jones provided details on the steps of his career that led him to where he is now, he looked back at his four years at Texas Tech, when he worked for head coach Kliff Kingsbury. During Jones’ first year in Lubbock, Texas, he was the director of player development. Kingsbury had Jones shadow him that year, and through that process, Jones said, he learned important lessons about the organizing and scheduling that goes into leading a Power Five football program.

“I was able to see it on a day to day basis. I was able to work directly with his ops person and his chief of staff and I was able to kind of get a good feel for how everything rolled,” Jones said of how Kingsbury prepared him for the role he finds himself in now at KU.

Kingsbury promoted Jones to become Tech’s outside receivers coach after one year. During his four years at Tech, the Red Raiders played at KU twice. Jones said since he came to KU a little more than two years ago, he has thought back about a pregame conversation he had on the field at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium as a Texas Tech assistant.

“This place is a sleeping giant,” Jones recalled saying. “If the right person takes control of this place, this is a sleeping giant.”

KU, of course, hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2009. But Jones thinks the program is headed the right direction, because he and other members of the KU staff began laying the foundation for a longterm rebuild two years ago.

As Jones put it, he and other KU assistants who were hired by Miles ahead of the 2019 season began identifying the types of players and prospects KU would need to “get this program going.”

“You have to have multiple layers of foundation. And it starts with guys that can be here from four to five years,” Jones said of recruiting high school players, as KU has with back to back classes, in 2020 and 2021.

“It’s kind of difficult when you’re trying to build off of guys that only have one year left of eligibility or guys that may be coming in transferring, or coming in from a certain junior college with only two years left,” Jones continued. “We want to build straight from the ground up with high school guys, and that’s my mindset, also.”

KU is scheduled to begin its 15-practice spring schedule on Tuesday, with Jones leading the way.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Jones said of his new role as interim head coach. “I feel like I’m ready to go. And I’m excited.”

Comments

Brett McCabe 1 year, 4 months ago

Fantastic human being. That’s a good place to start. And a good place to start for all KU coaches.

Thrilled for this gentleman and happy that the players are being led, through a time of epically inept decisions made by one white millionaire after another, by a guy who seems as straight as an arrow.

Time to start cleaning up the mess that is KU Athletics. We are carrying a sea anchor in Girod. Let’s hope the group in charge of selecting a minimally competent adult can overcome the mush in the Chancellor’s office and get us someone who can bring back pride and integrity to the program.

Congratulations Coach Jones. Best to you and the young men.

Dale Rogers 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm curious why you chose to point to race. And also what you have against Girod.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 4 months ago

Jeez Brett way to contribute to the White-Man-Bad mantra and the inept progressive thinking that spews from educational corridors. The facts are, there are epically inept decisions made by Chinese, African, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Indian, as well as any other group of Millionaires every day. Inept millionaires is not a racially exclusive club and Pro-sports, not to mention politics, are a fine example of that.

Robert Howard 1 year, 4 months ago

I recognize that KU is obligated to conduct a full and thorough coaching search. They should, however, not overlook a potential diamond of a coach hiding in plain site as our interim coach. I don’t know who the candidates are, or will be, but I’m in favor of giving Jones the opportunity instead of hiring another over-the-hill and overpaid former coach from somewhere.

Dale Rogers 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree so long as we don't lose key players and commits.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 4 months ago

I wish i could get excited about a 6 years of experience in a Power 5 program, 4 with Texas Tech as an outside receivers coach and 2 years at KU as a Receivers Coach and Passing Coordinator, of a program that has not been known for its passing game the past two years.

I agree that the program has a foundation that is starting to get built, but Head Coach seems like a stretch on this one.

Resume just like Beaty's if not slightly less, if I'm not mistaken.

David Friend 1 year, 4 months ago

I had posted days after Miles was let go to give Jones a chance. He is very impressive and if he gets an assistant head coach with experience I think Jones is guy to do it. We are not going to get any big name coach so we have to find the diamond in the rough. Beatty was never a recruiter and never had and experienced assistant head coach. Jones can recruit and it is clear that the players love him..

Layne Pierce 1 year, 4 months ago

Fantastic human being. That's a nice beginning, but are you saying Brett that that makes up for experience and training and years of preparation. Fantastic human being, is going to do your heart transplant, or make an emergency landing of the plane you are on.

Now, I know that Brett hates to have us always bring up Beatty, but the fact is that even if Beatty had been a great people person, a fantastic human being, the pressures of resurrecting the dead will strain every bit of that demeanor.

I think Turner Gill was a fantastic human being also, and yet he did not make any progress, so let's give Coach Jones, a chance to show while he is interim that he has that something that it is going to take, but let's not go all touchy feely, and forget what a titanic struggle we are engaged in and the actual requirements of the job.

And David, how do you know we will not get anyone? There are many masochists in the world.

RCJH

David Friend 1 year, 4 months ago

Well I don't know but it will cost an insane amount of money and unless the alum pay up it will be tough go...

Doug Horn 1 year, 4 months ago

At this point KU Football needs to try and keep as many of the 2021 recruiting class as possible. Naming Emmett Jones interim head coach at least give us a chance to keep the players we have signed. It might end up being the best option to have Emmett lead the team all of next year or until we find a head coach that is the right fit. Who knows Emmett might just be that person if he is given a chance. The last thing we need to do right now is make a quick decision that we regret later. Like we did the last couple of football hires? We need to find an AD first, because no quality AD is going to want to come in and have a brand new head coach that he didn't hire signed to a 3 or 4 year deal. If Emmett is a rising star then let's see how he does? We didn't win a single game last year, so it can't get any worse. Right?

Brian Wilson 1 year, 4 months ago

Hire Emmett Jones. Give him a reaonable two year contract with large incentives. If he wins games, then he deserves much hiigher pay. At the end of two years if not making progress, the New AD can find another. However, we can't just assume he would take such an offer. , Coach Jones may not want to be put in that situation and could see the long term career risk as being much.

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 4 months ago

We've spent too much money on coaches with almost nothing to show for it...we were probably going to see an ROI with Miles, but that's done now. We have nothing to lose. Just keep recruiting from HS, we need player development, strength training, and by golly we need a QB who can throw the ball accurately.

Completely agree, give him the opportunity.

Layne Pierce 1 year, 4 months ago

As a for instance, what if the rest of the staff quit, would Jones be able to assemble a suitable staff, or would we just ask the fans and players for nominations.

There is nothing wrong with giving him a year or two, but frankly, as Brian said, he may not want that monkey on his back.

RCJH

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

It’s nice that Coach Jones recognized the “sleeping giant” even before being hired.

It’s far from a given (see the Beaty experiment) but it is possible that he does make the transition to HC in more than title. That would seem like the best possible scenario, besides just winning, because it might create a greater loyalty with him and less likely for him to find greener pastures.

A guy can dream.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 4 months ago

I dont get it. Emmitt Jones is David Beaty all over. Beaty was in his 6th year as an assistant and his 4th year as a wr assistant. He actually had offensive coordinator experience. His last two years at TAM he was the recruiting coordinator. Oh and he had the 6th and 7th rank class when he was there. Oh and he recruited Mike Evan's who became a first round draft pick. I hear people liked Beaty, people liked his detail, they liked his recruiting...all the same things they say about Jones. The difference, Beaty was a successful wr coach. After 2 years, I would not think jones lit up our wr last year.

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