Ask Tim Jones his priorities in life and today he might say family, basketball and golf. But tomorrow he might say basketball, golf and family, while yet another day it might be golf, family and basketball.
But rest assured, it's going to be those three things. So closely intertwined with Jones for most of his life, let's just call it familybasketballgolf, or whatever order you might want to put them in.
And don't think for a minute that will change a whole lot after Jones coaches his last Streamwood boys basketball game this season. Sure, he's retiring after 35 years as a physical education teacher in Elgin Area School District U-46, and there might be a few more Florida trips on the agenda than there are now, but Jones won't be going underground. His youngest son, Drew, will be a senior at Larkin next year and Jones plans to spend every minute of his last child's games in the stands cheering him on.
"I want to enjoy Drew's senior year," Jones says.
Jones is a homegrown product who never strayed very far from U-46 schools, save for his four years at the University of Michigan. He graduated from Elgin High in 1973 and was a starter on that great Bill Chesbrough-coached team that went downstate and lost to John McDougal's West Aurora club 54-49 in double overtime in the state quarterfinals, in one of the most thrilling state tournament games in IHSA history -- a game Jones scored 12 points in.
From there it was on to what he hoped would be a promising career at Michigan, but two knee injuries cut short his playing time with the Wolverines, although he stayed with the program and was with them when they lost to Indiana in the 1976 national championship game.
A PE teacher at Tefft Middle School for 29 years, he's spent the last six at Streamwood, which is the only head basketball job he's had. But, by his own estimation, he's been involved in basketball in U-46 for 47 years, 25 in the Larkin program as either a head sophomore coach or varsity assistant. Also Larkin's boys golf coach for 28 years -- a job he hopes to continue -- Jones was a Larkin assistant for two runs to supersectionals. He also coached with Dan Batka at Lake Park for four years, winning four regionals and reaching the sectional finals three times.
Next week will be the real beginning of the end of Jones' basketball coaching career. His team plays Elgin in the Class 4A South Elgin regional Monday night, meaning his career could end against his alma mater. If the Sabres win that game, the next night they'll play Larkin, meaning the swan song could be against not only his son's team, but against Larkin coach Deryn Carter, who played for Jones at Larkin.
"It's a win-win for me no matter what," Jones says.
Along the way, Jones married into a basketball (and golf, for that matter, family) when he united with Bard Laird, whose brothers all played at Larkin. The intertwining of the two sports and family became a no-brainer.
"I'm blessed to have a great family," said Jones, who with Barb has three kids, Brad (29), Lindsey (25) and Drew (16). "I have a very supportive wife who knows the game of basketball pretty well. My mother-in-law and father-in-law, Don and Pat Laird, have always come to my games as well as Barb's sister Jeanne and her husband Chris Kuntz. That has probably meant the most to me. We're also a big golfing family and my goal now is to become the best golfer I can be."
Jones, who is still best friends with his high school teammate Jay Geldmacher, has many fond memories during his long stint in playing and coaching basketball -- playing downstate at a time when the Upstate Eight had four teams ranked in the Top 10 in the state, the Michigan experience and coaching in supersectionals among them. But his most cherished time has been the past six years at Streamwood and having an opportunity to be a head coach.
"The most gratifying time has been at Streamwood and being able to be a head coach," he said. "It's a challenge at Streamwood but we have great athletes and I've enjoyed trying to teach them the game of basketball. I really enjoyed my 29 years at Tefft and I've really enjoyed my six years at Streamwood. We have a great administration and our PE staff is second to none. It's been fun coming to work and that's half the battle."
Jones has also enjoyed seeing some of his former players, guys like Carter, Paul Kowalszyn, Steve Knapp and Brad Gavelek among them, become basketball coaches, as well as former Larkin golfer Jon Duppler, now the head pro at Elgin Country Club.
"There are a tremendous amount of good young coaches out there who I hope get a chance," Jones said. "I have three tremendous assistants and I hope they all get a chance to be head coaches."
Not every girls basketball coach will tell you they get along well with the boys coach at their school. Not true for longtime Streamwood girls coach George Rosner.
"I've worked with some good boys coaches but Tim is without a doubt the best I've worked with," Rosner said. "Cooperation with the boys and girls programs has never been an issue with Tim, I'm definitely going to miss working with him."
Jones still shakes his head when asked if it really seems like retirement is one loss away.
"Forty-seven years of being involved in basketball," he says. "It feels like it flew by. It really did."
And now there's new chapters to write in the Jones/Laird book of familybasketballgolf, or is it basketballfamily golf, or ...
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