Coming out of college 22 years ago, Joe Jones was hired as a guidance counselor at Comsewogue Middle School and coached the boys basketball team on the side.
At a school function, Jones met Frank Romeo, the longtime Comsewogue High School coach. It spawned a mentorship. The counseling job soon fell by the wayside -- and a basketball career began that eventually would lead to his being named head coach at Boston University.
Jones' roundabout journey to a job in the America East -- a decade after serving as an assistant at Hofstra and a year after resigning as Columbia's coach -- is noteworthy from a New York recruiting standpoint, too. Jones, a product of North Babylon, said he has made recruiting his home area a priority at each of his coaching stops and won't change that at BU.
"I have an affection for Long Island, I do," said Jones, who played high school ball at Half Hollow Hills West.
Jones was hired June 27 by the defending conference champions to replace Pat Chambers, who had been hired by Penn State. Jones, who spent last season as an assistant under Steve Donahue at Boston College, has the challenge of recruiting in his third conference in three years.
But luring recruits always has been Jones' strength -- a product of his personality, Romeo said, that he displayed even at Comsewogue.
"There's a buzz about Joe," ESPN national recruiting analyst Dave Telep wrote in an email. "He's got a great product to sell and he's a guy that has a tremendous reputation in the region and around the country . . . He's dug himself into some fertile recruiting areas and I think he's going to do well."
Jones said he is familiar with the America East from his days with Hofstra from 1994-97 -- his first foray into coaching college basketball and a time during which Hofstra went 72-22. He got the job after meeting then-assistant coach Jay Wright at a Villanova basketball camp in 1990.
That encounter -- set up with Romeo's help -- got his foot in the door. At Villanova, where Jones worked from 1997-2003, he drew on his New York roots to recruit metro players such as Randy Foye, Curtis Sumpter, Allan Ray and Amityville's Jason Fraser.
"He's got a magnetic force around him that just draws everybody in," said Andrew Theokas, director of operations at Western Kentucky and a former assistant at Columbia. "Joe's got an extra something. I don't know what it is, but it's an extra something, there's no doubt about it."
In 2003, Jones was hired at Columbia, inheriting a team that had gone 2-25 the previous season. The Lions won 10 games that season and Jones went on to win more games in his first four years than any other Columbia coach since 1981.
"Recruiting is entirely different than anything you do in your career," said Cornell coach Bill Courtney, a longtime friend of Jones'. "Columbia was obviously a difficult place to win. And he was able to get that program back on solid ground. He's a great recruiter."
Jones has basketball in his veins -- his older brother, James, is the coach at Yale -- and said Long Island is a big part of that. He said as a kid, he watched North Babylon stars such as Kevin Hamilton (Iona, drafted by the Celtics) and Stan Wilcox (Notre Dame).
"My town was a hotbed for talent at that time," Jones said.
Romeo said Jones knew every coach on Long Island by the time he was a year into his middle-school job. That helped him land a job at Hofstra. Now he has another America East banner to point to.
"I'm really proud of where I'm from," Jones said. "When I was coming up, there was always someone I could call for help and advice. These are guys I'm still friends with to this day."