After leading South Bend Washington to the 4A State finals this season, Antwon Jones is stepping down to take the head coaching job at Niles High School in Michigan, the school announced Thursday.
"Today we introduced my staff to the team, to our team, our new program," Jones said after meeting his team for the first time Thursday. "We gave out schedules of up and coming events and just talked about expectations giving them a little guidance of what to expect from us."
Jones won 33 games in four seasons at Washington, a remarkable accomplishment considering the Panthers did not win a single game the year before he arrived. He inherited a program that won just 15 games in six seasons.
"When I took over Washington people were telling me, 'Why would you ever want to go to Washington? You can't win there.' Well, we won there," said Jones.
Jones immediately changed the culture at Washington and the Panthers won seven games in his first season in 2008. In 2009, Jones led Washington to an 8-3 record and their first sectional playoff victory since 2001. In 2010, he led Washington to a 7-4 record and another sectional victory but the wins were forfeited due to an ineligible player.
This past season, Jones guided the Panthers back to the state finals for the first time since they won it all in 1973. With Division One players like Gehrig Dieter and David Perkins, Washington entered post-season play with a 6-3 record. They had lost 3 of their previous 5 games after a 4-0 start to the season, but Jones got his players on track for a fantastic run, capturing the school's first sectional championship since 1977. Washington would reach the 4A state finals, where they lost to Cathedral 42-7.
"I think about the great memories we have at Washington playing with the great kids we have. I expect them to do very well this year and I expect them to try and make it right back down to the state championship and winning it."
Jones now looks to try and do at Niles what he did at Washington. The tradition rich Vikings have not had a winning season since 2003, finishing with a 4-5 record each of the last five seasons. Jones is replacing Dan Brawley, who will become the school's golf coach.
"Today I had somebody say that this could be a career killer for me," Jones explained. "I don't feel that way. It charges me up and I think we are going to do wonderful things here."
Jones, 35, was a defensive tackle at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz and Bob Davie.
It's a new beginning for both Jones and Niles Football. On Thursday, Jones took the first step in getting ready for the 2012 season, meeting his team and letting them sign up for positions.
"I am looking forward to building a program, winning a lot of games and getting a lot of these kids out to the different levels of competition after high school and college. I think that they have a lot of talent and I believe we just hit a gold mine and I feel very lucky at this point."