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Coach Q&A With Cedric Jones

This article appeared in the July 30, 2019, issue of the student newsletter.

Four years ago, Cedric Jones returned to Cedar Valley, where he had once played basketball, to become the head coach. His basketball journey took him from Dallas to Waxahachie, Minnesota and Illinois before returning to Cedar Valley College. 

Here's that journey from Cedric's perspective. 

First of all, how did you get into basketball? How did you discover a love for the game? 

Oh, man. I started playing basketball when I was a young kid growing up on the west side of Dallas; I learned how to play at North Hampton Recreation Center. And so, it's always been a passion of mine. But as a kid, growing up, you know, Texas is a football state. So, everybody starts in football. But I grew to love basketball and played high school level. South Grand Prairie High School. Graduated from there back in 1984 and then ended up here at Cedar Valley. Played one year here at CVC, so I'm a product of DCCCD. Donned the Cedar Valley College uniform for a year, and then I transferred to Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie. And then I told my mom I wanted to get away from Texas. Because I knew I wanted to see more of what was out there. I don't know why, but I ended up in Minnesota at North Central University. So, I got far, far away from Texas. 

I was getting ready to say that's a big change. 

Yeah. Summers are beautiful up there, but the winters are brutal. But once you get accustomed to it, it's great because you get the four seasons. Here, you get one and a half. 

So I've been playing basketball, man, since I was a young kid and fell in love with it. Finished my playing career; hadn't finished school. So, I went back to school. Was in and out of school. But then, I just felt a call to be involved in the lives of young people. And so, the thing that would get me involved with that was this sport. And so, when I was about 22, 23, I felt that and then got an opportunity to coach some high school ball in Rockford, Ill., at Christian Life High School. Started that back in 1988 and been going ever since. And so, it's been a joy. It's been a grind. 

We don't get paid the [Duke men's basketball head coach Mike] Krzyzewski or [Kentucky men's basketball head coach John] Calipari money. But — I'm just speaking for myself, but I'm sure all the coaches in this district feel the same way — we love what we do. We got a chance to play at some point when we were young, and then being here keeps us involved in the game. But it also gives us an opportunity to be a mentor to young people. 

Once you decided you wanted to get into coaching, how did that first opportunity come about? Did you seek it out or was it something else? 

It was kind of seeking and, if you will, a God thing. Because the guy who was the varsity coach at Christian Life High School was a friend of mine, and he asked me if I wanted to come and just kind of help out. I'm like, "Yeah, that's great." But then, next thing you know, it's like, once you get into it, you fall in love with [mentoring] the young people. Because you've already got that love for the game. And it's just being someone who's there for them to listen to. The X's and O's, that's a small part of it. It's just being an example — a positive example — for those you're engaged with. 

So, you coached at North Central; you went back to high school, right? 

Yup, I left NCU, went back to the high school level because my kids were getting older. And so, I ended up coaching at a private school where they were there, and I was with them on a daily basis. Then once my son graduated, this opportunity came up. And I didn't know how this was going to work out. I just kind of threw my name in the hat just to see even if I would get a phone call. And next thing you know, here we are four years later. 

How would you characterize your first few years here? 

It's been great! The department's great. My supervisor is probably the best person that I've worked for in my entire career, and that's saying a lot. The first year was an adjustment because I was here by myself. My family wasn't here yet. 

Oh, they were still back in Illinois? 

They were still back in Illinois. But I have relatives here, so that made it somewhat easy. But once they got here, it's been great. Yeah. 

Outside of the job, what was it like coming back? Because you were away from Texas for, what, 20 years? 

Man, I was away from Texas for 30. See, now you've got me telling my age. [laughs] I left Texas when I was 19. And then I came back 30 years later. So, in certain regards, it's been an adjustment. Because I would come back to visit and stuff like that. But to actually come back to live and this time of year to get readjusted to this heat. But— [laughs] 

That's the biggest thing I was getting at! 

Yeah, getting adjusted to this heat box down here. It's like the devil himself is sitting outside. But the adjustment has been really good. But the Dallas area that I knew when I left has changed drastically. So much so that one of the first times I was back here with my wife on a visit, I got lost. 

And you grew up here! 

Right, and I grew up here! Man, I'm driving around, and she's looking at me and she's like, "You're lost, aren't you?" I'm like, "I am!" And so, she gave me the hardest time. "This is your hometown!" And I am lost right now. And so finally I got squared away. But it's changed, but in certain regards, it's still the same. But I think the change is for the better. It's grown leaps and bounds since I left here at 19. It's crazy. But it's a good growth. 

How old are your kids now? 

I have a 26-year-old, 24, 22, 5 and 4. 

Oh, really? 

Yeah. I have a wide variety. [laughs] And so, it's kind of cool. And then I have a 3-year-old grandson. So, it's cool. The older kids are out, and they're doing their thing. One of my daughters just graduated, and she's going into nursing. My son has a year left of college. And then our oldest daughter, she's into dental hygiene up in Rockford, Ill., with our grandson. So … it's busy. [laughs] 

How would you describe your coaching philosophy? 

Oh, wow. 

I know that's a very broad question. 

It is, but it's not. You know, my philosophy, man, is to teach life through this game because this game has taught me a lot. It teaches you how to approach certain things in life, especially when things change. Because basketball is such a sport where everything changes on the fly. And so, in life, sometimes it happens that way, and you have to adjust. And so, it's somewhat the same where if something happens today or tomorrow, [you] can't sit and dwell on it. You have to make adjustments in order to get through that certain situation. And how you handle that situation builds your character. And so, that's what we try to teach the young men here. Hey, things are going to happen. We're all going to make mistakes, but how are we going to come back from that? Because that's what builds character in a person. 

Since your first coaching opportunity after you graduated from college, how do you think you've grown as a coach and as a person? 

Wow. Just by going through life experiences. You know, that in itself helps you grow. And just like I said, you go through peaks and valleys, and when you're at the highest of high, you need to continue to handle things accordingly. Because that high's going to come down, and you may go as low as possible. But you still have to keep the same perspective. And so, that's what I try to do. Just keep things in perspective, and take each day as it comes. And then treat each individual equally. 

You kind of touched on it a little bit, but I'm always really interested when I talk to coaches and players. What sticks with you longer: the big wins or the tough losses? 

About the same. Don't get me wrong. Coaches hate to lose. I know some coaches, if they lose a tough one, they'll go home, and then they'll stay up all night watching film. And I have a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old. When I go home, they take my mind off of it. I'll think about it, but once my head hits the pillow, I'm going to sleep. It's over with. But, come back the next day, watch some film, tweak some things and you move forward. Because if you hold on to a tough loss, it'll drive you batty. Even if you hold onto a great win on the other side of it … I mean, it's great, but then what's going to happen the next night? You can't dwell on what happened the previous game. You have to keep moving forward. So, we just try to take it, like I said, one day at a time.

Is that learned behavior? Because I think it'd be tough to learn that right off the bat. 

It is. It's one of those things where, as a young coach, I did hang onto tough losses and hang onto big wins. But it's like, OK, that's over. 

Nobody cares anymore. 

Right. That was yesterday. What are we going to do tomorrow going forward? [In] my experience, yeah, it's kind of a learned behavior. 

Does it help that you now have a family that you didn't have when you started out? Your wife and kids. 

Yeah, because that helps you in your maturity level. It helps you really put things in perspective. Because even after a big win or a tough loss, when I walk through that door, I'm not Coach Jones. I'm Daddy. I'm a husband. I still get yelled at for not taking the trash out. [laughs] Or, you know, not letting the seat down or whatever the case may be. So yeah, it helps because at the end of the day, man, these guys [motions to family pictures around his desk] are what's important to me. My family's what's important to me. 

When you're recruiting, how do you sell Cedar Valley to the kids? 

That is the biggest thing you sell: the institution. The institution, it sells itself once they get on campus. But as I'm going out and talking about coming to play for this program, my first priority is selling the academics and the institution itself. Because without those two, there's no men's basketball. And so, selling the institution is really an easy part because this place has been here since 1977. It served me, and it served those who came behind me. It's going to be here while I'm here, and it's going to be here after I'm gone. 

Could you walk me through a typical home game day for you? 

On game days, I probably get here a little later than normal because the normal hours are either 8 to 4 or 9 to 5. Typical game day, I'll usually get here around 9, 9:30 a.m. And then just kind of watch film a little bit. But then I'll go down and set up the gym for that night's contest. Make sure we have everything that we need. Information for officials. Make sure my roster's set. Make sure everything in the gym is in working order. Things of that nature. And then spend some time with the guys out in the lobby. Just kind of hanging out, chit-chatting. Stuff like that. But then as time gets closer, they'll come in for a shootaround. We'll walk through what we're going to be prepared to do that night versus our opponent. And then get dressed, talk to the coaches for a little bit, go in, do pregame and then get the contest and let the chips fall where they may.