Jones has won at the sport's bargain-basement level. His American University teams finished first in the Patriot League four times and earned the Eagles' only two Division I NCAA tournament bids.
Now Jones heads to Old Dominion — the school will introduce him at a Thursday news conference — a program with above-average resources, a fertile recruiting base and lofty aims of joining George Mason, VCU, Butler and Wichita State as Final Four intruders.
I'm not sage enough to forecast whether Jones can take the Monarchs where he's been as player, assistant coach and head coach — the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four — but I do know his coaching chops are impeccable, and anyone who dismisses his selection as cronyism doesn't know ODU president John Broderick.
Yes, Jones and Monarchs athletic director Wood Selig are long-time friends. And yes, they worked together at Virginia, Selig a fledgling administrator, Jones a young head coach.
But Broderick has no such connection to Jones and had no predisposition to consider him a viable candidate. Like Selig, Broderick is supremely ambitious, and Jones had to convince them that he has the experience, skill and vision to match their goals.
That he must have done during an interview last week on the Norfolk campus.
"He's an unbelievable X-and-O guy," said Virginia assistant coach Jason Williford, who played for Jones at U.Va., and worked for him at American. "Makes game-time adjustments like you wouldn't believe. Very organized when it comes to game-planning and practice-planning.
"I didn't fully appreciate that as a player, but working for him I saw behind the scenes."
Jones is 52, and his American team this season was 10-20. So he's no Andy Enfield, the shooting star who parlayed Florida Gulf Coast's Sweet 16 run into the Southern California job.
Such is the way of the Patriot League world. American, Bucknell and Lehigh have been the conference's basketball beacons, but with such modest means, some dips almost are inevitable.
The Eagles had nine winning seasons in Jones' 13 years. Their Academic Progress Rates annually exceed national norms.
At Virginia, where I covered some of his teams as a beat reporter, Jones made five NCAA tournaments and won an NIT in eight seasons. Since his departure, under three coaches, the Cavaliers have earned three NCAA bids in 15 years.
This Jones, a Virginia point guard from 1978-82, did without benefit of John Paul Jones Arena and all its amenities.
There's no sugarcoating that Virginia fired Jones in 1998 after an 11-19 finish, 3-13 in the ACC. It was the Cavaliers' second losing season in three years.
But Jones learned from his missteps and worked briefly as an assistant at Rhode Island before taking over at American in 2000.
As with all college head coaches, Jones' fortunes will hinge, in large measure, on staff and recruiting. And that is where he is well-positioned to excel.
Jones knows coaches of every ilk nationally, regionally and locally. He will hire assistants capable of landing talent from metropolitan Washington through the Carolinas.
Recruit they must after a 5-25 season, jarring for a program that's appeared in six NCAA tournaments, advancing in two, during the last 20 years.
Jones gets it. Always has.
He grew up in Owensboro, Ky., the son of a college coach — his father, Bob, guided Kentucky Wesleyan to the NCAA Division II national championship. Virginia was 102-28 during his playing days, when he set the school career record for assists, and reached the 1981 Final Four with Ralph Sampson.
"My dad always told me when I was growing up that I was a little strange because even when I was a little kid, I'd sit there and watch practice," Jones told me in 1990. "You're talking 9, 10 years old, when everyone else is dribbling the ball or running around the stands playing tag. I'd watch and then talk things over afterward with my dad."
Williford played on Jones' best Virginia teams, which won the 1992 NIT, reached the Sweet 16 in 1993 and beat Kansas to reach the 1995 Elite Eight.
"I'm a little sad because I know hard he's going to recruit the state," Williford said. "It speaks for itself what he did recruiting at Virginia. … Absolutely he can do it (at ODU).
"I know he'll do it."