june jones 1-19-08 (1 Viewer)

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[SIZE=+2]Faith goes a long way in June Jones' formula

[/SIZE] [SIZE=+1]SMU football coach gets his players to believe in system first
[/SIZE] [SIZE=-1]05:40 PM CST on Saturday, January 19, 2008

[/SIZE] [SIZE=-1]By KATE HAIROPOULOS / The Dallas Morning News
khairopoulos@dallasnews.com
[/SIZE] UNIVERSITY PARK – June Jones and SMU athletic director Steve Orsini talked at length about "fit" before Jones became the school's new football coach almost two weeks ago.
<!-- image1 starts here --> <!-- image1 ends here --> "On the surface, June, Hawaii really fit you like a glove," Orsini recounted. "Hawaii doesn't fit in any part of Dallas, Texas."
But Jones convinced Orsini he and his approach to rebuilding football programs – one uniquely his own – is adaptable and will succeed on the Hilltop, just as it did on the islands.
The approach is drawn from a life "amazing, diverse and colorful," as Orsini put it. It is a mix of devotion to putting players first, a personal spiritual motivation and an unrivaled understanding of X's and O's – and the Run and Shoot offense.
Jones carries a calmness, yet an intensity and unshakable confidence as he begins implementing his plan, which embraces being different from the norm.
"I know the way I do things turns them around," Jones said this week. "There's been a whole bunch of guys in there doing it the way you're supposed to do it, and it doesn't work.
"I know my way works."
SMU fans have hoped for this before. But four previous coaches couldn't deliver, and the Mustangs still have only one winning season since returning from the NCAA-mandated death penalty in 1989. Still no bowls since 1984.
But Hawaii was just as miserable when Jones took over in 1999, coming off an 0-12 season. "We were pretty pathetic," said Dan Robinson, Hawaii's quarterback at the time. But Jones met with the team and told it, "We are going to have one of the top offenses in the country."
"I thought it was great," said Robinson, a dentist in Louisville, Ky. "At least we had somebody who believed in himself. ... What we really needed was a system. ... This is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it. Go do it."
Using much of the same roster, Hawaii went 9-4 the next season in the greatest one-season turnaround in college football.
Jones, who also revamped franchises in the NFL, said his successful history will make it easier to get SMU players to actually believe change is possible. And change is coming quickly.
"What they sense immediately from me and my coaches is that these guys are different than anybody that's coached us before," Jones said. "The way we do things, the way we talk to them, the way we just interact.
"If you develop that trust in each other, you play at a higher level."

Demeanor matters

Jones – a far cry from making YouTube for a coach's rant – does not yell at players. He believes being positive draws out better results in the long run. Drop a pass in practice? Let's talk about it, get a pat on the back and do it again. His staff also subscribes to this approach, one Jones traces back to a decision he made to be different from the coaches he had during his career as a quarterback.
But this does not mean, Jones said, that he is a "players' coach."
"I've never had a player that I haven't been able to motivate or get playing a better level," Jones said. "The way I do it is different than what I think is the norm, but I hold them very accountable for their actions – more so than a players' coach would."
Jones said he coaches not for SMU or himself, but for the players and God. He points to a recent book on the revitalization of Hawaii football to explain himself. Hawaii Warrior Football: A Story of Faith Hope and Redemption, is filled with anecdotes on Jones' relationships with players.
One of the chapters features quarterback Jeff George, whom Jones had a falling out with while coaching the Atlanta Falcons. Their relationship repaired, Jones was most interested in a part of the story when George remembered Jones giving him a Bible for a wedding present.
Jones said he believes "God has a hand over what I do."
"I believe when you serve people they respond, and you get more out of them," Jones said. "There is more than just the football part to me. ... I don't preach. You'll probably never hear me say it again."

Park Cities fixer-upper

Jones admits he gravitates toward reclamation projects. He insists the only open college jobs he was interested in were SMU and Duke.
"He loves taking things people have lost confidence in and turning them into winners," said Jim Donovan, who has known Jones for years, was associate athletic director when Hawaii hired Jones in December 1998 and is now executive director of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. "He's a builder."
In the NFL and at Hawaii, Jones has been hired for jobs in desperate need of fixes because of what some once considered a gimmicky, high-flying offense.
His mastery of the Run and Shoot, which annually ranked among the top offenses in the nation while he was at Hawaii, can help turn teams around quickly.
According to Donovan, Jones uses the term "unconscious competency," which requires players to do so many repetitions that they can execute almost without thinking.
But Jones, immersed in making up recruiting ground before national signing day on Feb. 6, needs more than a system. He needs players. He's confident that his offense and track record will help win recruiting battles, perhaps, he said, eventually going head-to-head with the region's Big 12 powers.
But recruits want to play in front of big crowds. SMU's attendance has ranked among the worst in Conference USA. Jones said winning – and his style of football – will change that.
"If you come to one of our games over the next four or five years," he said, "you'll come back because it's a fun game to watch." As Jones begins converting SMU, he said he's committed to reaching out to the SMU community, one surely different from the island culture he embraced.
Time will tell if the Hilltop will suit him as well as Hawaii. Jones, at least, has no doubts.
"We're going to win," he said.
 

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