The basketball family
By Linda Stewart Ball
"Family!" That's one of the words the Mean Green men's basketball team is likely to shout for inspiration before it breaks from a court-side huddle.
Coach Johnny Jones tells potential recruits when he visits their homes and high schools and speaks to their parents that they will be an extension of the UNT family.
"For the most part, I've tried to bring people into the program who are not only good players but who I wouldn't mind babysitting my kids," says Jones.
"A relationship really just doesn't end when they shoot their last ball or play their last play," he explains. "We're trying to help them grow as people."
Jones' mother was a domestic worker who took her youngest son with her when she cleaned the barracks at Fort Polk army base. Young Johnny observed the soldiers during drills, impressed with their precision and discipline.
"Watching those guys we understood the importance of discipline and that there were consequences for your actions," Jones says.
That's one of the many lessons he strives to impart to UNT players each season.
At the end-of-season banquet, senior guard Calvin Watson took the podium to say farewell and express his gratitude. He says he's a better person because of the team and their coach. The public affirmation nearly brought Jones to tears.
"It makes it all worthwhile," the coach says. "You know you're reaching them."