Marsha Jones, 42, is the first year head girls basketball coach at Shiloh. Leading the Generals in her first varsity head coaching job after moving up after a successful run at Shiloh Middle School.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." Jones talks with staff writer Ben Beitzel about how an injury cut her hoops career short, how the same injury brought her to coaching and affected her style and how being the shortest among eight siblings brings her respect.
BB: Let's start with your basketball playing days, why didn't you play in college?
MJ: I went for a rebound (in high school), I came down and was trying to pass it and someone stepped on my foot as my leg rotated, so my foot went one way, my leg went the other way.
BB: Not the best way for those parts to move.
MJ: Nah, not at all.
BB: Your mom kept you out because you were only 17, you must have been smart to graduate early.
MJ: I graduated with a 3.9. I had honors, AP classes and all back when we didn't have computers.
BB: Well, you ended up OK, going to Florida State, was it disappointing not playing basketball?
MJ: It was highly disappointing and that comes into how I coach. I want everybody, these opportunities that you have, you need to take full advantage of it. There is no lagging of anything. A lot of the reason I am so intense is because when I went (to Florida State) I wanted to play so bad I would try to play intramural sports, but my leg wouldn't hold up. It was very disappointing.
BB: Was it hard to let that go?
MJ: I mean, I haven't let it go. I haven't let it go. I still, I still have that little burning little, 'I can still do it, I can still get in there.' Mentally, I know it's done. Physically, I don't want to let it go. I coached at the middle school (Shiloh) and one of the challenges with the girls was the box-out drill. They were always teasing me, saying, 'You only have one leg. We're going to push you over.' I beat them all. It's technique, baby. It's all technique. That's just how I am. I am still competitive. Everything is a challenge.
BB: How'd you end up coaching?
MJ: I couldn't get away from sports. When I graduated I still wanted to play but I knew I wasn't going to be able to play. I had to pick a major and my original major was psychology and I got to the last semester, the last class for psychology and I decided I didn't want to do that anymore. I liked sports so I switched over to education to do P.E. I actually was going to do sports medicine. I had no desire to teach at all. I was going to do athletic training and sports medicine. While at school, we had to do internships for sports medicine and I did an internship ... my high school internship at Lincoln High School (Fla.) and the coach there was like, 'I need an assistant, I need a JV coach.' I was like 'Me! Me! Me, me, me!' Those girls, they went 15-5, they won their JV title. As seniors, I had them as freshmen. ... It was a whole group of kids that had never played basketball, we went 15-5 and as seniors, my internship was over, I stayed in touch with them and as seniors they won the (state) title. That was my first coaching group.
BB: You're from Miami, you go to Florida State, how'd you end up here?
MJ: My husband's job transferred him here and when I found out we were pregnant, it was like, 'Let's go.' Transferred, moved up and started working in Georgia.
BB: Always Gwinnett?
MJ: I have always been in Gwinnett. I started at South Gwinnett (cluster). I was at South Gwinnett from 2000 to 2008 and then I went from South Gwinnett to Shiloh.
BB: Always coaching?
MJ: No. I coached softball, that was an experience. In Florida, we play slow pitch. That was a big change. I went from coaching softball to creating and coaching the South Gwinnett Blue Ice Step Team. That was one of my babies that I started there and it's still going.
BB: Then, you came to Shiloh to coach the middle school girls.
MJ: My first group was the 16-0 team.
BB: You're probably still coaching them?
MJ: They are sophomores now. My last team at the middle school, they weren't too bad either. Made it back, lost the championship game.BB: What's high school, varsity been like to coach?
MJ: This is a rebuilding year. One of my key players from the 16-0 team tore an ACL and is out for the year. We are injury prone right now.
BB: How about you? How much different is high school from junior high?
MJ: The game, the game is the same. You score points and stop the other team from scoring. Speed-wise it's different than high school. But fundamentals and the object of the game are all still the same. Once they realize it's still two points for a layup, one point for a free throw, we break it down simple and we find out the key things we need to fix, tweak to pull it all together, then you have an awesome team. It's getting them to understand that. I am spending time right now, building basketball IQ and awareness, game awareness, situation awareness. Stuff like that.
BB: How old is your daughter over there? I assume that's your daughter.
MJ: My daughter (Madai) is 8. I have a son (Miles) and he's 13.
BB: Do they play basketball?
MJ: I am trying to get her into basketball. My son plays every sport. I am trying to get her because she is going to be tall. She is almost as tall as me now at 8. She likes volleyball right now. I told her, 'You will do something with a ball. I don't care what it is, but you are going to do something with a ball.'
BB: You live in the Parkview cluster, where will your daughter go to school?
MJ: Father and son stuff, I stay out of it. My daughter? My daughter will go here. My daughter will be wearing the black and silver.
BB: Do you miss Florida?
BB: Family? Weather?
MJ: Weather and family. I am the only child out of Florida.
BB: How many are there?
BB: Eight? You have seven siblings?
MJ: I am No. 7. I have a younger brother. I have six brothers and one sister. I have niece that's older than me. My oldest brother is 17 years older than me.
BB: That's got to make family gatherings ... loud?
MJ: That's what I miss the most. It's like a big party every time are around. We don't need to go anywhere or do anything. We all meet at my mom's house, everybody brings a little something. It's just a big party. Everyday, everyday it's a party.
BB: All athletic?
MJ: I think I was the most athletic one. I did basketball, softball, badminton anything I could do. I am the shortest.
BB: By a lot?
MJ: I may be 5-foot-7 on a good day. Everybody else is either 5-9, 5-10 or up. My grandmothers on both sides are short. My mom's mom may have been 5-6 and my dad's mom may have been 5-5, so I got the short gene. Both of my grandfathers were 6-feet or higher.
BB: That's what everybody else got?
MJ: Yes. I am literally, the shortest of everyone. I have nieces that are 12 that are already 6-1. I am literally the shortest.
BB: You can hide, I guess.MJ: I am the one they respect the most. I am the one they call aunty. They call, all my other brothers and sister, they call them by their first name, but they call me aunty. I guess that's what you call a short person complex. Whatever. It's a respect thing. I'm not your cousin, I'm not your friend, I am your aunt, so you will address me appropriately.