After Mesa Red Mountain football coach Jim Jones batted around his football future the past 10 days, he finally decided two decades was long enough.
Jones informed athletic director Mike Anderson he will resign after leading the Mountain Lions through the school’s first 22 seasons.
Jones was hired when the school opened in the fall of 1988 and has coached every varsity football squad since. Jones was the second-longest-tenured coach in the East Valley heading into this season just behind Tempe Corona del Sol’s Gary Venturo. Venturo retired earlier this month.
“Since our last game, until (Tuesday) I’ve thought a lot about it,” Jones said. “Today I told Mike this is it for me. It’s time to let some young blood in. It’s been a good job and a job I wanted to have for a long time. I’m not finished coaching. Come spring football my wife says I’ll be dying and she’s probably right.
“It’s time to move on.”
Jones, 60, compiled a 137-99-3 record in those 22 seasons, including two 5A state championships (2000 and 2001) and two other semifinal appearances (2007 and 2008). He's 171-120-4 overall as a head coach spanning three schools.
Red Mountain went 6-5 record this season, winning its first five games. The Mountain Lions then lost five of their last six and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Mesa High.
“We knew this season was going to be rough, but not as rough as it ended up being,” Jones said of the Mountain Lions’ tussles in the newly formed Fiesta Region. “Those four losses in a row (Chandler, Phoenix Brophy, Peoria Centennial and Chandler Hamilton) were devastating. It became hard to look our guys in the eyes and say we’re going to go out and whip Centennial and really believe it.”
Jones has coached in Mesa for nearly 30 years. He played for Jerry Loper at Wellton Antelope in the late 1960s, coached at Bullhead City Mohave in the mid 1970s, then Phoenix Cortez from 1979-1981. He eventually became an assistant under Loper at Mesa Westwood in the 1980s until he landed at Red Mountain.
“He told me the best job you can get is coaching in Mesa, Arizona,” Jones said. “He was right. But high school football is changing, and I don’t like the direction it’s going.”
Jones can’t count the number of people who have suggested to him to be more visible, including Pop Warner games, but it wasn’t something he’s willing to do.
“I didn’t get in the sport for that,” Jones said. “The (school’s) self-policing is not working. Money and (open enrollment) is following the kids. I don’t know, maybe it’s a lack of energy on my part. That’s just not the way it’s supposed to work.”
Red Mountain will advertise the position next week and then begin its search in earnest at the beginning of 2010, but Jones is confident a quality group is awaiting the next in line.
“I feel like I’m running away from it a little bit,” Jones said. “The seniors we’ll have next year were unbeaten as JVs. They even beat Hamilton’s JV. Whoever takes over will have an awesome bunch of kids.”