About this series
Throughout the summer, The Times will conduct a series of interviews with the area’s high school football coaches. Upcoming interviews:
Thursday: Flowery Branch’s Chris Griffin
June 12: Commerce’s Marvin Justice
June 14: Gainesville’s Bruce Miller
June 19: Buford’s Jess Simpson
June 21: Chestatee’s Stan Luttrell
June 26: Dawson County’s Jeff Lee
June 28: East Hall’s Bryan Gray
July 3: Habersham Central’s Stuart Cunningham
July 5: Johnson, TBD
July 10: Jefferson’s T. McFerrin
Banks County football coach Philip Jones enjoyed plenty of success in 2011, his first season at the helm of a high school football program.
Taking over a program that had gone 7-3 but fell short of the state playoffs in 2010, Jones was able to continue the Leopards’ growth, leading them to seven regular season wins and a playoff berth.
It wasn’t surprising, however, as Jones comes from a line of football-minded individuals.
His dad has coached at the high school level for 43 years, including 23 as the offensive line coach at Brookwood High. His brother is Tommy Jones, head coach at Lumpkin County.
Philip Jones spoke with The Times on Saturday about the two important “Fs” in his life: Football and family.
Question: So, it’s June, and spring practice and school are over with. How’s the offseason been treating you so far?
Answer: It’s been very good. We have a number of our kids participating in other sports, so most of them have been involved in that. We had a good number go out in other sports — basketball, wrestling, track. A lot of them are staying in shape that way, and about 100 percent have been with us in weightlifting as well.
Q: I guess it’s really not the “offseason,” though. Does the work and preparation ever really stop?
A: In a sense, it doesn’t. It really is a year-round job. As soon as the season ends, you’re trying to get kids recruited, you’re planning out spring practice, clinics, trying to rally them in the weight room. You never really stop. Starting with spring practice until the season ends, it’s really the grind.
Q: Your first year with the team was quite a success. How are things different as you go through your second offseason with the team?
A: You become more comfortable because you’ve been through it before now. Once you’ve gone through a season and the program is set in place and the kids understand you and your expectations — from that perspective, things do get easier. It’s been very smooth. Experienced coaches have always told me that you feel the difference from year one to year two, so even though last year was successful, it’s good to move into the second year.
Q: How’d you get into coaching originally?
A: Well, I come from a coaching family. My dad is the offensive line and strength coach at Brookwood — he’s been there since 1988, and he’s a 43-year veteran of high school coaching. My brother is the head coach at Lumpkin County and my uncle is the athletic director at Cobb County. He was a longtime defensive coordinator when they had a good run of success in the late 80s and 90s. For some reason, most of the males in my family have gone into coaching. We say it’s kind of like the Mafia: It’s just our family business. My dad is my greatest role model, and I always wanted to be like him.
Q: Your older brother is the coach over at Lumpkin County. What’s it been like having your brother going through the same stuff near to you?
A: It’s been invaluable. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve given him a call to ask for his advice. He and I are extremely close. He’s been a great resource.
Q: How often do you guys talk to each other?
A: Probably three or four times a week. We bounce ideas off of each other. Usually me for him. He’s very wise and has been a great help in getting me off on the right foot.
Q: How often does the subject turn to football?
A: I would say about 99 percent of the time. What else would we talk about? At family functions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and we usually go on vacation together, the three of us get in a room and it’s almost like we’re speaking a different language.
Q: You haven’t gotten to coach against him as a head coach before. Is that something you’d like to do in the future?
A: Yeah, we’ll actually be scrimmaging each other coming up. Decided it might be best not to play a regular season game, but on Aug. 18, we’ll face each other in a scrimmage.
Q: It’s just a scrimmage, so I guess there’s no harm in predicting a winner is there?
A: I think a Jones is going to win.
Q: I guess that’s a fair prediction.
A: It’s kind of a controlled atmosphere, so we’ll just be focused on improvement. It’s not a practice, but kids do get to practice against different offensive and defensive schemes. From that perspective, it’ll be a good environment. We’re just trying to bring things up to game speed.
Q: Any thoughts on the upcoming season?
A: We’re moving up a classification (to Class AAA), so that’ll be a new challenge for us. Wasn’t long ago that Banks was in single-A. But, we welcome the challenge and we’re working hard to remain competitive.