Jonus hired as LaGrange College women’s basketball coach
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a new coaching challenge for Jasen Jonus.
Jonus, an assistant on the LaGrange College men’s basketball team for the past seven seasons, has accepted the call to become the new head coach of the school’s women’s program.
Jonus takes over from Lee Buchanan, who enjoyed a successful seven-year stint as the Panthers’ head coach.
Since the news was announced, Jonus has received a steady stream of congratulatory messages, and he said that “means a lot.”
“It makes me feel very blessed to have a lot of people in my life that care, and I’m excited about the opportunity to continue coaching and impact young people’s lives,” said Jonus, who is also the LaGrange College cross-country coach. “That’s why we get into this business hopefully.”
When he was offered the position, Jonus discussed the situation with his wife Dr. Hunter Jonus, who played basketball at LaGrange College.
“I had to talk to my wife about it, and we just thought it was a great situation to keep us in LaGrange, and be a part of the college, and hopefully start a family here soon,” Jonus said. “It’s a great opportunity to be a head coach.”
Jonus arrived at LaGrange College having never coached before, and he began working alongside Kendal Wallace, who was entering his third season as the men’s head coach.
During their time together, Wallace and Jonus helped the Panthers win three USA South championships and make four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III national tournament.
“(Coach Wallace has) been a great friend and mentor that’s helped me along the way grow from a young graduate assistant coach, and helped me learn how to build a championship program,” Jonus said. “It’s tough to crack into this profession we’ve picked, but he threw me into the fire and it helped me out, because I learned a lot, and he helped me become the coach I am today, and I think it’s going to help me be a head coach.”
Wallace, who is preparing for his 10th season at LaGrange College, is thrilled to see Jonus get this opportunity.
“I am very excited and happy for coach Jonus,” Wallace said. “Although our program is losing a very important and hard-working member, the women’s program is gaining an incredible coach and person. Coach Jonus is a perfect fit for this position as he has an incredible amount of patience, an excellence temperament, and a thorough understanding of recruiting at the (Division III) level. Along with that, his basketball IQ is well above average. Continuing to work side by side with him is a win-win for both of us.”
Jennifer Claybrook, LaGrange College’s athletics director, said she is “absolutely thrilled Jasen Jonus has accepted this position Jasen has been instrumental in the success of our men’s basketball team and our men’s and women’s cross-country teams. He is driven to create the best student-athlete experience, steadfast in his commitment to the athletic department and to fulfill the mission of LaGrange College. I cannot wait to see what the women’s basketball team will achieve under his leadership. It’s a great day for Panther basketball.”
Since accepting the position Jonus has contacted the returning players on the team, and he said “they’re excited about the opportunity to be coached, and excited about the way we’re going to play and what the future holds.”
Jonus was an all-state player at Crossville High in Boaz (Ala.), and he made 214 career 3-pointers while helping the team post a 60-5 record his final two seasons.
Jonus continued to excel in college, playing at a high level for three seasons at Birmingham Southern after transferring from Wallace State.
When Jonus left college with a degree in hand he wasn’t ready to leave his playing days behind him, so he spent one season playing semi-professional basketball for the Birmingham Blitz.
“It was a great opportunity, and it was in Birmingham where I played college ball,” Jonus said. “Unfortunately after that season that’s when I broke my hand, and that was my shooting hand. That’s when I ended up coming (to LaGrange College), so it was a blessing in disguise.”
While it may have happened sooner than anticipated, Jonus always knew coaching was in his future.
His father, Kirk Jonus, was a long-time coach in Alabama, and his brother Justin Jonus played at Alabama and Troy before embarking on a coaching career of his own.
“I definitely wanted to go into coaching,” Jasen Jonus said. “My dad was a coach for many years in Alabama. Growing up in a gym and being around his practices and actually getting coached by him for one year. And then my brother was a very good basketball player. He played for Alabama and Troy. Now he’s a coach in Alabama.
“It kind of runs in my family, and I’ve kind of been around it my whole life and I knew I wanted to help impact young people’s lives.”
Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 season that is scheduled to begin in November, Jonus is looking forward to seeing what his team can do.
“From what I’ve watched the last couple of years with the women’s team, they’re very athletic, very skilled,” Jonus said. “We have a lot of good post players. I really am going to up the tempo a little bit, along with changing up defensive schemes with the full-court press. Going to the women’s side with four quarters, I think you can put more pressure on teams, and force more turnovers. We’re definitely going to play an up-tempo style.”
Jonus takes over the program from Lee Buchanan, who had a winning record in five of his seven seasons as head coach.
Last season the Panthers went 15-11 and lost in the first round of the USA South tournament.
The Panthers had five consecutive winning seasons beginning in 2013, and they made it to the USA South tournament semifinals from 2014 to 2016.
Last season, Buchanan became the first women’s coach in the history of the program to win 100 games.