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Jones Steps Down as Cavaliers Coach

March 16, 1998

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ Jeff Jones resigned Sunday night as Virginia’s head basketball coach after a disappointing 11-19 season, the most losses for the Cavaliers in 35 years.

The departure of Jones, 37, comes amid an NCAA investigation into possible recruiting violations in the men’s basketball program. However, the probe is not believed to have been a factor in Jones’ resignation.

Last summer, Jones was given a two-year contract extension after lengthy discussions with athletic director Terry Holland. But Jones was seeking a longer deal, and the short term may have hampered recruiting.

Jones will leave March 31, Holland said.

Jones met with his players Sunday night, the school said in a news release announcing the resignation.

Jones is 146-104 in eight years at Virginia, but has had losing records in two of his last three seasons. The Cavaliers lost 11 of the their last 12 games this season.

``Jeff has given a great deal to University of Virginia athletics over the last two decades as a player and a coach,″ said Holland. ``The past three years have been difficult ones for our basketball program, however.

``Jeff has worked hard to turn things around and has always put his love for the university and the program ahead of other priorities. As difficult as this change is for both of us personally, it is time to look forward in the best interests of Virginia basketball.″

Jones, who had two years remaining on his contact, will get $600,000 in severance pay. He has interviewed for the vacancy at Western Kentucky.

Jones’s career at Virginia peaked in 1995, when a senior-led team reached the Final Eight in the NCAA tournament. But Jones’ stock started falling the following season when a rash of off-court troubles plagued Virginia.

First, freshman recruits Scott Johnson and Darryl Pressley were arrested for shoplifting at an Albemarle County mall. Both were later convicted and they transferred the following year.

Then Melvin Whitaker, a prized 6-foot-10 recruit who committed to Virginia, was arrested for slashing football player Maurice Anderson’s face with a box cutter after an argument during a pickup basketball game.

Whitaker, who had not been in trouble before, was convicted of malicious wounding and sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail.

Virginia’s recruitment of Whitaker reportedly has been the focus of the NCAA probe, although Whitaker has said he knows of no rules violated by the school as it pursued him.

Last summer, Virginia scoring leader Courtney Alexander was suspended from the team after his arrest and subsequent conviction for beating his live-in girlfriend. Alexander, who averaged 14.9 points in 1996, transferred to Fresno State, where he will resume his playing career next season.

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