It’s summertime in the 1980s and Cole Field House at the University of Maryland is packed with spectators flocking to see some of college basketball’s top prospects. Tony Massenburg’s 6-foot-9 frame allows him to body up defenders, and Keith Gatlin flashes his talent at a relatable size. Maryland men’s basketball is viewed as a top program in the ACC.
The five-on-five runs remain legendary, and many still reminisce on their memorable plays. The fans marveled at the talent, but there were two young children who watched closer than most.
Current Maryland men’s basketball assistant coaches David Cox and Mike Jones stared at the talent on display.
Decades later, Cox and Jones are looking to bring a national title back to College Park for the first time since 2002.
They’re both DMV natives, and now find themselves coaching at a university that holds major weight in the area’s basketball community. Cox joined the Terps last season after a four-year head coaching stint at Rhode Island. He didn’t need to hear Maryland head coach Kevin Willard’s sales pitch — it was an easy decision to make.
Jones spent the past four years as an assistant at Virginia Tech, following a decorated head coaching career at nearby DeMatha Catholic High School. He joined Willard’s staff on April 5 after both sides expressed interest during the Final Four. Both men have witnessed the highs — and lows — of Maryland basketball and feel that they can bring the Terps back to the top.
The two have known each for over 30 years, even playing together for the Allentown GoGetters men’s 13-and-under team.
“[They’re two] DMV guys and we share the [DMV] culture,” Maryland guard Jahmir Young said. “So that’s where we connect and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to play for both of them at the same time.”
Young previously played under Jones at DeMatha.
Cox grew up in Landover, Maryland, the hometown of Maryland great Len Bias. Cox played four years at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., under legendary head coach Joe Gallagher. He competed in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (formerly known as the Metropolitan Conference) against players such as Danny Ferry and Carlton Valentine. He held his own and gained interest from several Division I schools.
After playing four years at William & Mary, he decided to remain close to the game by becoming a coach.
Cox began his coaching career on the AAU circuit with DC Assault, a grassroots program notorious for producing professionals. In his tenure, he coached multiple future NBA players including Michael Beasley, Nolan Smith, Tre Kelley and former Terp Adrian Bowie.
Following a short stint coaching Archbishop Carroll in Washington, D.C., he spent seven years at St. John’s as an assistant principal. Following that, he joined Georgetown in the Big East.
Cox joined former Hoyas head coach John Thompson III’s staff from 2007-10. In that span, Georgetown qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each season.
After a three-year absence, he accepted an assistant coaching job at Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 conference. Cox was named the head coach in 2018 and won 64 games in four years at the helm.
A day after Rhode Island’s conference tournament loss in the 2022 season, Cox was relieved of his duties, leaving speculation for his next move.
Not too far from Landover, Jones was beginning his basketball journey in Largo, Maryland. As a teenager, Jones’ father was a babysitter for Maryland great Adrian Branch. Jones developed his love for basketball after watching Branch win the 1987 NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jones credits Branch for teaching him how to play basketball, while fueling his desire to attend DeMatha.
There, he played for hall of fame coach Morgan Wootten and eventually earned a scholarship at Old Dominion. Despite playing sparingly in his first two years, he finished his college career as a 1,000-point scorer.
Like many, Jones had dreams of playing in the NBA, but was also content on starting a coaching career if his initial plan fell apart. Jones meticulously studied Wootten and previous coaches, which prepared him for the next phase of his career.
He utilized his human services and counseling degree to accept a vacant guidance counselor position back at DeMatha, and eventually succeeded his former coach in 2002.
Over his 20-year tenure, Jones amassed a 511-119 record and upheld the rich tradition of DeMatha hoops with eight WCAC championships. He coached NBA talent in Markelle Fultz, Victor Oladipo, Quinn Cook, Jerami Grant, James Robinson III and others.
The Stags were a symbol of success under Jones, as he consistently maximized the potential of loaded rosters.
After two decades leading the Stags, Jones was named Virginia Tech’s assistant coach on May 17, 2021. In his two seasons in charge, Jones led the Hokies to a 42-28 record and won the program’s first-ever ACC Tournament championship in the 2021-22 season.
Whether it’s recruiting locally or nationally, Cox and Jones are determined to bring the best players to College Park.
The two will look to build off the momentum of last season while aiming to bring the rich DMV culture back to Maryland and help the Terps strive toward returning to a championship level.