Go to any bar. Any local hangout spot. Anywhere you would find talk of the “good ole days,” as ex-athletes like to put it, where only those from the Roman coliseum match stories of physical prowess and feverish crowds.
Each feat coupled with a tinge of regret. Of pain. Of realization. And amid those stories you may hear aging jocks say: “Man, if I’d only taken school more seriously. Imagine where I’d be now.”
One coach knows this feeling all too well. A feeling he’s not willing to let his players become acquainted with. Andrew Jones, head men’s basketball coach at City College, is uninterested in watching young men forget the student portion of student athlete.
“The idea of academics being the main reason we are here,” Jones says, “it’s a mantra the other coaches and I share.”
A man of average build, with an above-average knack for demanding respect, Jones has a reputation for being a no-nonsense kind of guy. His reputation can be confirmed after walking into his office.
“You’re 20 minutes late,” he says to the reporter. “Close the door and have a seat.”
A native to Sacramento, Jones grew up in North Sacramento, where he attended his senior year at Sacramento High School and later played basketball at City College. But before he attended City College, he headed off to his now alma mater, U.C. Berkeley, and learned a valuable life lesson.
“When I first got out of high school, I went away to a four-year university,” Jones said. “I flunked out.”
From Golden Bear to barely hanging on, Jones says he returned home deflated and in need of structure. He found just that in City College. And in basketball.
After joining the team, Jones was able to bounce back.
“Playing here, I got a 3.5,” he says. “It gave me something to focus on. I knew I wanted to play and had to be a good student to do it.”
It is this experience that he says is responsible for the present culture of today’s basketball program, a culture of togetherness and academic responsibility.
Between practices, road games, and workouts, the life of a student athlete can get tough. Michael Wadsworth, a sophomore player for Jones, knows there is no room to slack off when it comes to school.
“We’d come back like one in the morning,” he says, “and you still got to go to class.” Jones says he would gladly take knowing all his players will move on to four-year colleges, then win a championship. And that’s rare now days in this win-by-any-means, hyper-competitive sports culture. Wins don’t matter in the long run, according to Jones. A degree lasts forever.
“I’m not going anywhere. I have tenure,” Jones says jokingly.
This is the attitude that attracts players to the City College program.
“Out of all the coaches I’ve ever had, he’s the most on top of grades,” says Bret Lynch, another second-year player. “Even if basketball doesn’t work out, you need to get your education so you can transfer and get your degree.”
When asked who he would most like to watch play, his answer surprises no one who knows him as a coach, as a man, as a father.
“I’d watch my son play over anything,” he says.
His answer is a testament to what truly matters in life to Coach Andrew Jones.