By RON FANFAIR
Longtime York University basketball coach, Bob Bain, did not know the first-year student’s name or recall seeing him play at Oakwood Collegiate when Paul Jones showed up the first day on campus and expressed an interest to try out for the team.
That might not have been totally surprising since Jones was a role player who came off the bench for Oakwood, which was a basketball powerhouse at the time.
It however did not take long for the coach to know and appreciate the student-athlete who left an indelible mark at Canada’s third largest university.
“When I told coach Bain I would like to give it a shot, he made it clear to me that I would have to make the team based on my skill and not on potential,” recounted Jones who tonight will join a distinguished list of alumni inducted into the York University’s Sports Hall of Fame.
“I was up for the challenge, but when coach reiterated that I had potential and they would keep me around to be part of the taxi squad, I politely said no thanks and decided instead to play senior ball for a year and improve my skills. I finally made the team on skill and not on potential. That was OK with me because I knew I had the skill then to really compete at a high level.”
Friend and Toronto Basketball Association president, Kirk Mark, believes Jones was good enough to play in his first year.
“He was one of the best sixth men in the province’s east region when he got his chance in his sophomore year,” Mark said. “If he was given the chance to participate in his first year, there is no telling what he could have done to assist the 1976-77 team that was in dire need of help.”
Bolstered by the addition of American university transfers, Bo Pelech and Lonnie Ramati, who complemented such talented players as Chris McNeilly, Ev Spence, Paul Layefsky and David Coulthard, York went on to win three straight titles with Jones who was awarded the Kitch MacPherson trophy for being the Most Valuable Player in the provincial championship game in 1981. He was also a two-time Ontario all-star who participated in the Canadian Inter-university Athletic Union’s national championship four times and won two bronze medals.
Jones paid tribute to his octogenarian parents Hugh and Marjorie for instilling good work ethics in him, and coach Bain who, he said, taught him that there is more to life than basketball.
“Paul was really enthusiastic when he came to York and it was obvious that he had a great future ahead of him,” said the two-time Canadian Inter-university Sport Coach of the Year, who has been with York for the past 35 years. “It was also evident that he was committed to working exceptionally hard to achieve his goals in life. He basically earned his time and the right to play. He improved as he played against better players and that was obvious as he went on to win the MVP award in the provincial title game in his last season.
“One thing about Paul’s game which I really admired though was the emotion and excitability he brought to the floor. When he started to harness these qualities in a positive way, it allowed him to focus on what he needed to do and not on extraneous things.”
Jones, who migrated with his parents from Jamaica when he was four months old, represented Canada twice at international tournaments, earning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1983. He coached at the high school and provincial team levels, winning silver and gold medals in consecutive years with Team Ontario and spent three years as an assistant coach at the University of Western Ontario.
Though he loves basketball, Jones was determined to succeed academically. He graduated with honours from York University and acquired a Bachelor’s of Education and Masters in Sports Psychology from the University of Western Ontario. He spent 22 years with the Toronto District School Board, becoming a principal before taking a two-year leave of absence in 2004 and finally resigning three years ago to become the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors on the Fan 590 radio broadcasts.
The first radio analyst for the Raptors that made its National Basketball Association (NBA) debut in 1995-1996, Jones worked as an editorial and production assistant with TSN’s news and programming departments where he eventually became associate producer of the Network’s Blue Jays Show.
In 1992, he served as associate producer for CTV’s national basketball broadcasts from the Barcelona Olympics and he anchored the radio broadcasts for the University of Toronto men and women basketball teams for four years up until 1993. He also teamed up with Toronto Raptors first radio play-by play voice, Mike Inglis – he’s now in the same role with the Miami Heat – to broadcast the World Basketball Championships in Toronto in 1994.
Jones currently co-hosts the post-game call-in show for home games and the Hoop show and Raptors NBA TV’s “Double Dribble” with game broadcast partner, Eric Smith. He also writes a weekly column for the Sportsnet website and is a guest columnist for Raptors.com.
He has covered every Raptors game live or in studio except the February 21, 2003 home game against the Phoenix Suns, when his wife gave birth to their last child.
“My wife wanted me to work that night, but I thought it was best to stay with her at the hospital and watch the game on the TV in her room,” the father of three said.
Jones’ younger brother, Mark, also played collegiate basketball at York University after transferring from the University of Alberta. He worked with TSN before joining ABC/ESPN in 1990 as a sportscaster.
A total of 80 alumni have been inducted into the Hall of Fame established in 1980. It was temporarily suspended for 14 years between 1986 and 2000 because of a lack of financial resources before being revived eight years ago.
Jones joins Spence as the only Black male alumni to be inducted. Other inductees include Portia Bariffe, who excelled in soccer and former Canadian Olympians, Molly Killingbeck (track & field) and Sandra Levy (field hockey).