Derrick Jones grew up in West Baton Rouge Parish, but never plied his trade in the area where he spent his childhood – until now.
The Erwinville native makes his return to the area to serve as head coach of the Port Allen basketball team.
He will fill the void left by the departure of Brandon Ricard – his childhood friend – who was an eight-year coach at PAHS who accepted a job as an assistant coach/teacher at Scotlandville Middle Magnet School.
“I’m excited to be back,” said Jones, 39, who grew up same street as Ricard, also an Erwinville native.
Jones spent the last 12 years on the college level as an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin. He began his coaching career at John Ehret High School in Marerro.
He attended Holy Family School from second to eighth grade. He made the move to Catholic High of Baton Rouge, where he played basketball for four years under then-head coach Paul Kelly, who led the Bears to the Class 5A runner-up spot in 1995.
“The years at Catholic High were very influential on my life, and I got to experience things academically and socially that probably wouldn’t have been offered at other places,” Jones said. “I was around some very good people.”
Jones played two years for Mississippi State and transferred to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Jimmy Collette, formerly of Newman High School in New Orleans, was head coach for Samford, but it gave Jones a chance to reunite with Kelly.
“Coach Kelly was on the staff there as an assistant, and that led to my decision,” Jones said. “He was very influential, so it was great to play under him one more time.”
Jones takes over a Port Allen program which went 9-22, but reached the playoffs for the final season in Class 3A.
The Pels had reached the quarterfinals two years in row and have made the playoffs the last 12 seasons.
“The sign of a good program is consistency, and I think that’s the best way I can describe how they’ve been the last 15 years,” Jones said. “Good becomes the standard, and you want to get things from good to great at this point.”
The start at the school in late July came after the summer league action ended, but Jones said it has not stopped him from getting the ball rolling.
“I’ve just been a sponge, trying to soak in as much as I can about the process and how things work,” he said. “I have a fourth-block period to work with the players, and even though a lot of them are still in football, I’ll have nine or 10 for strength and conditioning and even a little work on the court.”
The challenges will not be limited to the gym.
Jones said he will push high standards in the classroom, as well.
“They have been really good and the standard has been high, but I’m going to challenge the men every day to take things to another level, both in the classroom and on the court,” he said. “Education is important – that and athletics go hand in hand.
“I want my players to look back 10, 15 or 20 years down the line and talk about Port Allen, and how their years there made them a better person, better father, better husband and to have helped them attain great success beyond high school,” Jones said. “I will do my best to set a standard for them to be great people in the community.”