Column: Who will replace Jeff Jones? Sizing up potential candidates in ODU’s coaching search.

Old Dominion basketball coach Jeff Jones announced his retirement at an emotional press conference Monday at Chartway Arena, and it didn’t take long for breathless fans and social media mavens to start asking the question: Who’s next?

Jones won 560 career games, including 263 at ODU, and took the Monarchs to the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and to the program’s first AP Top 25 national ranking. He was paid $537,313 in total compensation, and ODU is likely to pay his successor more.

ODU athletic director Wood Selig said Monday the school has hired a search firm and has circled March 18 — the day the transfer portal opens — on his calendar.

Let’s break down some of the possible contenders in no particular order (based on, well, rumor, innuendo, hunches and just plain wild guesses):

Kieran Donohue and his fellow ODU assistants. By all accounts, Donohue has steered the sinking ship admirably as acting head coach since Jones’ heart attack in December. But Donohue — a longtime assistant under Jones — said Monday he was not a candidate to replace Jones. ODU is likely to make a clean break from the Jones era: None of his assistants have the experience necessary to take over.

Mike Jones, Maryland assistant

Jones was a star point guard on an ODU team that upset No. 3 seed Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 1995 and finished his career with more than 1,100 points. His coaching resume includes nearly 20 years as the head coach at storied DeMatha Catholic High in Maryland — following the legendary Morgan Wooten — before assistant stops at Virginia Tech (2021-23) and Maryland this season. Jones would bring home a former player to a fan base with fond memories of his four-year career and two NCAA Tournament trips.

Mike Jones, UNC Greensboro head coach

Jones steered UNCG to a win over then-No. 14 Arkansas earlier this season, and the Spartans are 20-9 overall and in the hunt for the Southern Conference regular-season title. A former assistant at VCU, Jones was the 2018 and 2020 Big South Coach of the Year and won 174 games as the head coach at Radford. A former player at Howard, he took over at UNCG in 2021. He has head-coaching experience and is among the more seasoned anticipated candidates. Bryant Stith, a former assistant under Jeff Jones at ODU, is now a UNCG assistant. Might Mike Jones bring him along to give him a staffer who already knows the lay of the land?

Robert Jones, Norfolk State head coach

A longshot, maybe. But why not consider the guy who has led ODU’s crosstown rival to NCAA Tournament appearances in two of the past three seasons? Robert Jones is a winner; ODU needs a winner. Robert Jones can recruit; ODU needs a recruiter. Jones, 44, has coached the Spartans for 11 seasons, and he’s been with the program for 17. NSU has finished first or second in the MEAC seven times, and Jones guided the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament in 2021 and 2022 after winning the MEAC Tournament. He’s flirted with leaving NSU — Jones was a candidate for the job at St. John’s before Rick Pitino was hired last year — and although the leap from the MEAC to the Sun Belt Conference is grand, the outspoken Jones could be a jolt that ODU’s revival needs. Added benefit: Saving on moving expenses.

Austin Claunch, Alabama assistant. Claunch, 34, is in his first year with the Crimson Tide after serving as Nicholls State’s head coach for five seasons. A former assistant at Clemson and Nicholls, Claunch was the Southland Conference Coach of the Year at Nicholls in 2021 and led the Colonels to back-to-back conference regular-season championships in 2021 and ’22. From 2018-21, he was the country’s youngest Division I head coach. He was 90-61 as Nicholls’ head coach.

Griff Aldrich, Longwood head coach

The road from Longwood to ODU seems like a logical leap. But Aldrich’s trek to college basketball coach has been atypical. Aldrich, a Norfolk Academy graduate who grew up in Virginia Beach, was a lawyer who founded an oil and gas company and was managing partner of a multi-billion dollar private equity firm before leaving the corporate world to coach full-time. He was hired as Longwood’s head coach in 2018 and led the Lancers to the NCAA Tournament in 2022. Prying Aldrich away from Farmville could take some convincing. He signed a 10-year contract extension last year, and Longwood christened a new arena this season. Even a significant pay increase isn’t likely to matter to Aldrich, who already made plenty of money before becoming a coach.

Drew Williamson, Florida Atlantic assistant

Another former ODU point guard, he was a Monarch from 2003-07 and, like Mike Jones, made two NCAA Tournament appearances. Williamson owns the school record with 130 consecutive games played and ranks third all-time in steals (215) and seventh in assists (555). As a coach, he was an assistant at Division II Virginia State and joined FAU’s staff in 2021. He’s part of a staff under head coach Dusty May that led the Owls to the Final Four last season in the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance.

Jami Frankenberry,