By CARL SMITH
Starkville School District trustees unanimously approved T. Brian Jones as the Yellowjacket’s incoming baseball coach Wednesday during a special session.
Jones, the current Neshoba Central High School head baseball coach, will replace retiring Starkville High School coach Danny Carlisle at the end of this season. Jones began his coaching stint at Neshoba in 1996 as an assistant baseball and softball coach. He took over as head coach in 2000 and earned over 200 wins. Combined, Jones has 17 years of overall teaching and coaching experience with a 68.5 winning percentage.
The incoming coach describes himself as a small-ball offensive coach, a system which pressures defenses with active baserunners and situational bunting.
“Pitching and defense are first, but if you don’t like small ball, you probably won’t want to watch many of our games,” Jones said jokingly. “With 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds, we want to keep pressure on them to make quick decisions. With the bat transition, I think that’s played into the way I like to play the game. I think there’s going to be a little transition, but I think the kids like that kind of active game.”
SHS athletic director Stan Miller said the district received 28 applications for the position. After a first phase of cuts, the remaining candidates all had great experience, Miller said, but Jones stood out the most.
“He’s taken several district titles and has been coach of the year on different occasions,” Miller said. “He’s the type of guy who doesn’t throw himself at you.”
Jones said he was going to stay to the side and let Carlisle and his players stay focused on the current season.
“His record and character are very strong,” Miller said. “We’re looking for a lot of great years out of him, and we’re looking for him to continue what Danny Carlisle has done for our district.”
Carlisle said he knows Jones is a great fit for SHS since he has coached against him numerous times. Neshoba Central and SHS are both in Class 5A, Region 3.
“(Jones) has always run an excellent program, and his kids always play hard,” Carlisle said. “Also, I’m extremely pleased with how he kept his facilities. I am 100 percent behind him and hope he has great success next season.”
Besides the strength of the program, school system and city itself, Jones said the head coaching position’s prestige was a huge draw for him as an applicant.
“(The head coaching position) has always been one of those jobs where you heard rumors about (Carlisle) possibly retiring and thought to yourself, ‘That’s a job I’d really like to go after,’” Jones said. “It’s a great program which always has tremendous athletes coming out of. I don’t know if it’s a possibility to fill (Carlisle’s) shoes because of all the wins he has. All I can do is be the best Brian Jones I can be.”
Jones will finish the year at Neshoba Central and officially join the Yellowjackets July 1. He said he’s excited to move to Starkville with his wife, Missy, and his three children, Tanner, Tucker and Emma Leighton.