Jones resigns from Mercer

The California Collegiate Athletic Association thought it was rid of Janell Jones, and happily so, after she went 50-10 in two seasons at Cal-San Diego.

But Jones is back, having resigned as the head women’s basketball coach at Mercer and taken the same job at Cal State Los Angeles.

Mercer sent out a four-paragraph release on Jones’ resignation Wednesday night. The CSULA website posted a release on Jones’ hiring. A message left on Jones’ cell phone Wednesday night wasn’t returned.

“I am excited to be back in the CCAA, and I look forward to the opportunity to build the Cal State L.A. women’s basketball team into a championship program,” Jones said on the CSULA website.

Mercer’s staff already had taken two big hits with the recent resignations of assistants Kenneth Cooper and Fred Castro.

Cooper left to become the head coach at Park University, an NAIA program near Kansas City, Mo.

He was introduced there in mid-May. Castro had resigned before that for an assistant’s job at a small college in New York.

Jones was 35-56 in three seasons at Mercer. She inherited a team that went 5-25 under interim head coach Sybil Blalock, who took over when then-head coach Brenda Nichols resigned in August of 2006 to take over at her alma mater, Sam Houston State.

CSULA is a Division II program in the same conference as Cal-San Diego, where Jones led her team to a national semifinal trip.

Mercer went 4-26 in Jones’ first season, but the 31-30 record of the past two seasons is the best run in a two-year time span since Mercer went 32-25 from 1995-97 under former head coach Billy Holmes.

The 17-14 mark in 2008-09 was only the program’s second winning season since the 16-14 record in 1996-97.

The program began in 1970-71 and has been above .500 — excluding an eight-game first season — 18 times.

Mercer went 1-1 in the A-Sun tournament in 2009 but was upset by seventh-seed North Florida in the first round of the 2010 tournament at the University Center.

North Florida went on to the conference championship game and was a missed referee’s call away from reaching the NCAA tournament.

Mercer lost six games by 10 points or fewer last season.

The 2009-10 team lost only seniors Courtney Ford and LaToya Jackson, the Bears’ top two scorers. But the Bears returned, on paper, 10 players who played in at least 25 games and six who averaged 11 minutes or more for 2010-11.

Jones’ college coaching career began as an assistant at Oral Roberts for a season and Oklahoma City for two.

She then won four NAIA national titles as OCU’s head coach and won at least 32 games each season.

She went 175-14 at OCU and 50-10 at UC-San Diego.

Jones’ successor will be Mercer’s fifth head coach — including Blalock as interim — in a decade.