U hires Jones as assistant to Haskins

by Todd Zolecki

Losing assistant coaches is never easy, but it’s the price Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins must pay for having a consistent winner. Twice in the past year he lost quality assistants, and twice he has found their replacements.
He hired the second replacement, Pittsburgh associate head coach Bobby Jones, on Monday. Jones played for Haskins at Western Kentucky from 1980-84 and replaces assistant Larry Davis, who left to accept the head coaching job at Furman University last month.
Jones, a native of Macon, Ga., will assume the duties of the Gophers’ associate head coach position, which was vacated by Milt Barnes who left last October to accept the head coaching job at Eastern Michigan. Haskins hired Charles Cunningham to replace Barnes soon thereafter.
“I feel certain that my opportunity in the Big Ten will help better prepare me to reach my personal goals, which is to become a head coach someday,” Jones said.
His responsibilities are similar to those he had at Pittsburgh. He will oversee recruiting, scouting and administrative duties. But Jones does not consider this a lateral move.
“From knowing the type of person Coach Haskins he is, I felt the experience I get working under him as a coach will help me reach my ultimate goal,” he said. “I’m excited to come here and be a part of this.”
Jones said he learned hard work and discipline under Haskins as a player.
“His word means everything,” Jones said. “He’s very clear and up front and honest with his players. It’s a lot of fun playing for him.”
The recruiting scene
Minnesota is talking with a few high school recruits for the spring signing period, but is not actively involved with a particular player, said Haskins.
The Gophers signed Kevin Clark, a junior college transfer, and Kevin Nathaniel, a freshman who was in the Air Force, and still have two scholarships available for next season.
Haskins said Clark is ready to make an immediate impact with the team next season.
The coach said if the Gophers don’t use the remaining scholarships, they may sign a maximum of three players during the fall signing period.
“Everybody assumes that because you go to the Final Four … it’s easy to recruit if you have no players coming back,” he said. “We have eight pretty damn good players coming back. So every young man wants to play. It’s hard to get a blue chip guy to come in and play a role. We look for people who want to come in and play a role.
Jacobson in USA trials
USA Basketball invited Gophers forward Sam Jacobson to its tryout May 30-June 2 in Colorado Springs, Colo., for either the 22-and-under World Championship team or the World University Games team.
Point guard Eric Harris was also invited, but elected not to attend to rest his shoulder and take summer classes.
Jacobson, an honorable mention All-America selection last season, is up against 50-to-60 of the nation’s top talent and will compete for a spot on one of the two 12-player rosters.
The under-22 World Championship is held Aug. 1-10 in Melbourne, Australia. The World University Games are held Aug. 20-31 in Trapani, Sicily.
Fast break points
ù Haskins is feeling better since a visit to a hospital a few weeks ago after experiencing chest pains. Haskins almost suffered a heart attack two years ago. He said the stress of a long season finally caught up to him last month, along with the alleged domestic abuse case involving Courtney James.
“It brought a lot of headaches and a lot of tension,” he said. “And then the thing with Courtney. That didn’t help at all because I was really hurt. It was the first time in many, many years I was really hurt inside with that happening to him. He’s a good person.”
ù As expected, Jacobson and Harris are the co-captains for the 1997-98 season.
ù The Gophers begin off-season workouts today. The coaching staff can work with three players at a time for two hours per week.