Jones lands spot in UH's prestigious Circle of Honor

Mar. 1—The winningest University of Hawaii coach in modern college football history is now a member of the school's Circle of Honor.

The winningest University of Hawaii coach in modern college football history is now a member of the school's Circle of Honor.

June Jones was told of the induction during Thursday's luncheon at Murphy's Bar & Grill that was arranged under the pretense of a belated birthday celebration.

The 71-year-old Jones was moved to emotion after being honored by best friend Artie Wilson, a former UH basketball player and Spectrum Sports announcer ; Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi ; and former UH players and coaches Rich Miano and George Lumpkin.

"It's an honor, " Jones said. "This is home. This is where I always wanted to be. It's an honor to be honored."

Jones, who attended UH for two years, was a prolific quarterback at Portland State who played five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and went on to coach in the NFL, CFL and USFL. But his most memorable stint was nine seasons as the Warriors' head coach.

"When they hired (Fred ) vonAppen (in 1996 ), I was in a position where I couldn't take it at that time, " Jones said of the coaching vacancy at UH. "I didn't think I'd get another shot. When I got an opportunity, I didn't turn it down."

After vonAppen was dismissed on Nov. 30, 1998, a UH search committee led by Hugh Yoshida and Jim Donovan met twice with Jones in San Diego. By agreeing to a contract that paid $320, 000 annually, Jones walked away from a multi-million-dollar deal to continue as the San Diego Chargers' head coach.

"I've always loved the people here and the way things are done here, " Jones said of his decision.

Jones also felt his version of the run-and-shoot offense would resurrect a program that was 0-12 in vonAppen's final season.

"I've watched us fill the stadium running the football, " Jones said. "I knew if we threw the football, we'd sell more tickets. I was a believer that playing exciting football is part of being successful at any level. You've got to earn money. You've got to sell tickets. I knew what I did offensively would be perfect for Hawaii."

In the 1999 opener, USC pounded UH 62-7.

"I thought I was going to be fired before the second game, " said Miano, who was the secondary coach at the time. "And (Jones ) walked up to me and said : 'Believe in what we're doing. And more importantly, let the kids know we'll be OK.'"

The Warriors won nine of the next 12 games to finish with what was then the biggest turnaround in NCAA history. Under Jones, the Warriors went 76-41 and qualified for six bowls, including the 2008 Sugar Bowl after a 12-0 regular season in 2007.

Jones developed record-setting quarterbacks Timmy Chang (now UH's head coach ), Nick Rolovich and Colt Brennan. Several of his players—including Vince Manuwai, Samson Satele, Chad Owens, Kynan Forney, Adrian Klemm, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Travis LaBoy, Davone Bess, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Wayne Hunter—played in the NFL.

But Jones also gave second chances. Brennan, Bess and Tinoisamoa overcame legal problems when they joined the Warriors. Running back James Fenderson was homeless.

"I was a three-time transfer, " Jones said. "I went to Oregon, Hawaii and Portland State. I finally got a chance because someone gave me one. That motivated me to help the person and not just the football player."