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Old Dominion basketball coach retires after heart attack and amid prostate cancer

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones reacts after a call on Nov. 13.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones reacts after a call on Nov. 13.

NORFOLK, Va. >> Old Dominion basketball coach Jeff Jones, who stepped away from his job last month following a heart attack and amid prostate cancer, announced his retirement Monday.

The 63-year-old Jones fought back tears during a 40-minute news conference in front of family, friends, staff members and current and former players. He tried to avoid making eye contact with several people close to him.

“I knew at some point it would happen,” said Jones, who suffered a heart attack at the Diamond Head Classic a few days before Christmas. “Dec. 20 kind of changed stuff. It gave me an opportunity to think about how grateful I am and what really matters. I’ve been so fortunate. Forty-one years. That’s a long time. But the number of people I’ve been associated with over those years is just amazing. … I feel like I’m a really lucky person.”

While Jones was home recovering, he learned he will need treatment for prostate cancer for a fourth time.

Jones finishes his 32-year coaching career with a record of 560-418, with eight NCAA Tournament appearances. He led his alma mater, Virginia, to an Elite Eight appearance in 1995 and an NIT championship in 1992.

Jones said his health has improved and he’s eating better than ever.

“I should take stock in a salad company,” he joked, adding that being away from the game has reduced his stress level.

Jones said he thought about coming back and coaching one more year to end on a different note, but he didn’t want to be disingenuous toward players and the team.

“There’s a lot of things to look forward to, and I did want to prioritize my family, my health and happiness,” he said. “I think being happy is really, really, really underrated.”

With 560 wins, Jones retires as the 19th winningest active coach in Division I and tied for 91st all-time. Five of his wins came against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in Division I men’s college basketball.

Jones has been ODU’s coach since 2013, winning 204 games with the Monarchs. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015 and 2018.

Jones was named Virginia’s coach in 1990, succeeding Terry Holland and becoming the youngest head coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history at age 29. He coached the Cavaliers until 1998 and was American’s coach from 2001-13.

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