GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) – University of North Dakota Director of Athletics Bill Chaves announced on Wednesday that Brian Jones has stepped down from his position as head coach after 13 seasons leading the UND men’s basketball program to accept the associate head coach position at Illinois State. A national search for his successor begins immediately.
“Anytime someone invests over a decade as a head coach at one school in this day and age, it is a tremendous upset but Coach Jones did that and more,” said Chaves. “He took us from Division II to Division I, independent status, and then three DI conferences all the while doing with integrity and hard work.” Brian will always be the coach that took us to the ‘Big Dance’ for the first time and we will always be appreciative and thankful for that. We wish him and his family nothing but the best moving forward.”
“There are so many people I want to thank who made this 13-year journey a life changing one for me and my family,” said Jones. “That is why this decision is very difficult one for me, but one that I have wrestled with for some time now. The driving force behind this decision is ‘family’ based. The want and need to be closer to our family, is something that has become evident to me. Since arriving to campus, I’ve had my head down working endless hours trying to build/establish a program that has seen many changes in our landscape. As I look up 13 years later, I realized my children are just a few short years away from being off on their own. Time is one of the most precious, and unrenewable resource we have in life, and I want to be able to experience more of this with our entire family.
“First, I want to thank Tom Buning, Betty Ralston, and Steve Brekke for giving me my first head coaching opportunity. I also want to thank Brian Faison and his staff for working tirelessly during our transitions from levels and leagues. Without their efforts our successes on-and-off the floor would not have been possible. There are so many other people behind the scenes at UND who do not get the recognition that the coaches and athletes do, but without their services we could not do the things that we do. So, thank you! I would like to thank our loyal fans. I am so grateful that you supported our teams during the great seasons, but also during the difficult ones as well. No blizzard or below zero temperatures can keep you away from a night at the Betty.
“Finally, I want to thank all the coaches, and players I had the privilege of growing, learning and loving over the course of this journey. You made me a better person, father, husband, and coach. We were able to experience a lot of ‘firsts’ during this journey, but the things I am most proud of are not those ‘firsts;’ it’s seeing our guys serve people within the community, and grow as young men. It’s knowing that they all graduated, and went on to impact the communities they live in. I’m also proud of the careers that UND has fostered for young assistant coaches. Currently, we have seven former assistant coaches who have gone on from UND to become head coaches at the collegiate level. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and I was surrounded by wonderful people. This place has been special to many, and it has allowed me to live my dream. I gave my heart and soul to UND and will be forever grateful for the people and the memories made here.”
Jones was named as the program’s 18th head coach in 2006, where he helped guide North Dakota to new heights in Division I. Under his leadership, UND amassed double digit victories in 11 of his 13 seasons and has finished in the top half of the conference in seven of those years. Since moving to the Division I level in 2008, the Fighting Hawks have reached postseason play in six of their 11 seasons and Jones has accumulated 16 wins in conference and postseason tournaments during his tenure. His 190 career wins ranks fourth all-time at North Dakota, trailing only UND Hall of Famers Rich Glas, Dave Gunther, and Clem Letich.
UND reached the ultimate prize in Division I in 2016-17 when the Fighting Hawks captured the Big Sky Conference regular season and postseason title to reach the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in program history. The Hawks finished the campaign with 22 wins, a program-best in DI and the most by a UND team since 1999-2000, and a 14-4 mark in league play before battling No. 2 Arizona in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Countless players have recorded conference and national accolades under Jones, including four All-American selections, 14 all-conference representatives, 10 all-tournament selections, three major conference award winners, and countless academic achievements. Jones’ teams have also shined off the court, leading all UND men’s teams in community service hours for the past three seasons.
Nine players under Jones left North Dakota ranking inside the top-30 for points in program history, including two-time All-American Troy Huff and two-time Lou Hensen Mid-Major Player of the Year Quinton Hooker who both rank inside the top six.
One of the most storied programs in the Upper Midwest for collegiate basketball, North Dakota has accumulated 1,586 wins and a .597 all-time winning percentage. UND has won 19 conference championships, reached 20 NCAA Tournaments, won 30 postseason games, appeared eight times in the Elite Eight, reached three Final Fours, had four NBA draft picks, and two Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers.
Current assistant coach Steve Grabowski will take over on an interim basis until a replacement is named with a national search beginning immediately.