Keeping Up With Jones
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ITHACA, N.Y. With Cornell off to a 7-1-2 start, it's worth noting the other thing that went Cornell's way this season, and it could turn out to have important implications.
(Also see: Cornell Named CHN Team of the Week)
It's not always big news when an assistant coach moves from one school to another, but Casey Jones' departure from Ohio State to Cornell this summer was particularly noteworthy, and the importance may only grow.
Jones has long been a well-respected assistant for John Markell, helping take the Ohio State program to multiple NCAA appearances, including the 1998 Frozen Four. Jones was considered more the tactician of that staff, and was in the final mix for the Bowling Green head coaching job when it last opened.
Brent Brekke, the previous Cornell assistant, took advantage of a chance to go back to his Western roots, and to the theoretically more prestigious conference, by taking a job at Miami.
But Jones is a Cornell alum (1990), and he knows that Cornell is the one place he can go — from CCHA to ECAC — where it's not a step down in the coaching hierarchy. And the timing was right to head back to Cornell. He was leaving Ohio State with two large recruiting classes at the same time his alma mater had an opening. He built connections in the midwest he can lean on in the future if need be, and now he wants to make a name for himself in the East again.
"It was (a chance) to work with Mike, get back here, and continue to develop as a coach, and get somewhere you could be successful," Jones said. "I've always been choosy. I like to work hard, I was brought up that way, and I don't want to work hard and not be able to be successful. ... I want to be at a place where you can bear the fruits of your labor. And I think the last two places I've been, I had that."
So with Jones' addition — joining fellow assistant Scott Garrow — the Cornell staff becomes (with no offense at all to Brekke) one of the most formidable in the country.
"We accomplished a lot with Ohio State. ... (Then) we got gutted there. We lost some kids to attrition there that we shouldn't have," Jones said. "We weren't able to sustain it and we were trying to rebuild. And I felt comfortable with this, with the timing, because we battled hard with some big recruiting classes. When you're really appreciative of a place, you want to leave them in good shape."
Jones was an assistant with the Big Red before, right after graduation from 1991-93, when he actually took the spot vacated by Schafer's departure to become an assistant at Western Michigan. He then went to Clarkson for two seasons, before heading to Ohio State the same season Schafer took over at Cornell — where he inherited many of Jones' recruits.
Jones said he wasn't necessarily looking to switch until head coach Mike Schafer got permission, and then did, speak to him.
"When you're an assistant coach, you're trying to attract people to a place. I was very passionate about Ohio State — but I'm very passionate about Cornell," Jones said. "So you know you can do your job well and you get excited about that."
But the place where Jones may have the biggest impact is somewhere he hasn't even had a chance to fully engage in yet — and that's the recruiting of French-Canadians. Despite his anglo name, Jones has Quebecois roots and is fluent in French. Cornell has had relatively few French-Canadians since Jones left in 1993.
"Hockey is very geographical in its recruiting. In BC/Alberta, if you're a major school, you can get in there with your name recognition, and Cornell is. Now I have connections where, if there's great students in the midwest, I get calls on that. So that's good," Jones said.
"But the main thing here is, I am fluent in French, and we can get right back into Quebec. That's exciting. We'll be able to get in. The name recogition is here, the tradition is here, and that's what's special."