Park Hill tabs alum Jones for boys coaching job

Smithville Warriors boys head basketball coach Chad Jones yells out to his players while playing Lafayette in St. Joseph Thursday night. Chad Jones half expected to retire from coaching at Smithville, but when his alma mater came calling, he jumped at the chance to return to Park Hill to coach boys basketball.The Park Hill Board of Education approved Jones’ hire at last week’s regular meeting. Jones replaces David Garrison, who resigned last month to take the activities director job at Winnetonka. That left Park Hill and activities director Bill Erneste needing act fast to find a suitable replacement. “These opportunities don’t come up very often,” said Jones, a 1993 graduate of Park Hill. “So when I heard about the opening, I had a long talk with coach Erneste the athletic director and decided to apply and was hired. It went pretty quickly.” Jones, 40, amassed a 187-157 record in his 13 seasons at Smithville. He led the Warriors to back-to-back district championships in 2005 and 2006 in Class 3, but they haven’t reached the playoffs since after moving up to Class 4. An All-Suburban Conference performer in his last two seasons at Park Hill, Jones went on to play at William Jewell College. He started his career as an assistant at Park Hill South starting with the Panthers’ inaugural season in 1998-99 to 2002, and the tenure included a second-place state finish in Class 3A (2000). “Coach Jones stuck out from the interview process,” Erneste said. “He’s a hometown guy. He’s an alumni. We love bringing Trojans home. He has proven himself since leaving Park Hill. He was highly successful at Smithville. We couldn’t have had a better choice.” With the move to Park Hill, Jones moves up to Class 5 — the state’s largest classification — for the first time. The Trojans are coming off two of the most successful seasons in recent history. They were in the playoffs four times between 1990 and 1995 but didn’t return again until 2014 under Garrison’s direction, upsetting top-seeded Park Hill South to reach the Class 5 playoffs. Park Hill went 21-6 this past season with star guard Landry Shamet, signed to play at Wichita State, with five of the six losses to state finalists — Blue Springs South (Class 5 champion), Park Hill South (three times, Class 5 state runnerup) and Basehor-Linwood (Class 4A runner-up in Kansas). Garrison went 105-99 in eight seasons as coach. Next season, Park Hill returns 6-foot-7 senior-to-be starting forward Tanner Zeil (5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game) along with reserve guards Dru Smith (8.0 points per game) and Brandon Townsell (4.4 points per game). Smith, who will be a junior, featured more after a late-season injury to departing senior Carter Anchors. There appears to be at least a small rebuilding task at hand, and Park Hill plans to do so by starting over with a familiar face. “Coach Jones is a relentless worker,” Erneste said. “He’ll be in touch with all of the kids in the Park Hill School District to make sure we build from the youth programs up. He has great contacts with AAU to make sure the kids get the best experiences. It’s a great fit.”