Old Dominion University men’s basketball coach Jeff Jones announced Wednesday that he has had a recurrence of prostate cancer. Jones was initially diagnosed and treated for the disease in 2015.
Jones learned of the relapse in the summer of 2017 and began treatment this summer to stall its progression. He said that neither the cancer nor his treatment would affect his job performance.
“There’s no way I’m going to allow it to change my approach, my commitment. It sure won’t change my desire to win,” Jones said in a statement.
Jones informed his players last week and said his message to them was simple.
“I told them, ‘I’ve had this for a year now and you haven’t seen any difference in me and you’re not going to see any difference now, either,’ ” he said.
“You’re going to get my very, very best every day. I also joked with them a little, and said this doesn’t mean I’m going to be any nicer. I’m still as competitive as ever.”
Jones said he originally announced he had cancer in 2015 to persuade men who haven’t been tested for the disease to get tested. In 2017, he gave an emotional address to the American Cancer Society’s annual lobby day in Washington, D.C., and he plans to speak there again on Sept. 24.
ODU Athletic Director Dr. Wood Selig said he admires Jones’s honesty. Jones told Selig about the recurrence of cancer prior to last basketball season.
“I have known Jeff Jones for more than 30 years and he is a very private person,” Selig said. “For Jeff to be so forthcoming and open about his recent illness is a testament to his character and his resolve to raise the awareness of prostate cancer and to compassionately support those who may face similar circumstances.
“True to his nature, Jeff has always been the consummate team player in his support of others. How he is dealing with this is further evidence of that unique and very admirable quality.”
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. In conjunction with this announcement, and in her role as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer program, Jones’s wife, Danielle, Jones plans to launch a fundraiser for ACS’s Hope Lodge Network, which benefits patients who require lodging for treatment.
“We have learned through our experiences so far how much is needed to combat this disease. As a result, we want to help others win their fight,” she said.
To contribute to the Jones fundraising effort, go to https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/djs-hope-lodge-fundraiser.
Jeff Jones is 114-58 at ODU and is 471-345 in 26 seasons of coaching.
Jones is a former University of Virginia star who played with Ralph Sampson. He coached both at his alma mater and American University before coming to ODU in 2013.
At the time, ODU’s program was reeling from a five-win season in which the head coach was fired before the season ended.
It took Jones just two years to turn things around. The Monarchs finished 27-8 in 2014-2015 and advanced to the NIT semifinals in New York. Jones took ODU to the 2016 C-USA championship game, where the Monarchs fell, 55-53, to Middle Tennessee.
ODU basketball has also thrived academically under Jones. ODU had a score of 995, with 1000 the highest score possible, on the latest APR rankings announced by the NCAA.
Jones will make no further comment today, but plans to make himself available to the media later this week.