ALEDO — During the last two summers, Mike Jones was busily preparing his Mercer County boys' basketball team for a long winter's grind on the hardwood.
But after stepping down as the Golden Eagles' head coach following the 2018-19 prep campaign, he has been making the adjustment to a lighter summer workload.
"It's obviously been a little bit different from what I'd been used to with the last few years," said Jones. "I've been concentrating on the family part of life, which has been a bit easier."
The 2001 Sherrard graduate and his wife Jamie have four kids, three of them sons, and all four are involved in their own sports; his sons are playing baseball for three different teams, and his daughter started playing softball this summer.
"There are some nights where we're going in four different directions," he said. "I loved coaching at Mercer County; the kids are great, the community's awesome, and they supported me. In the end, it came down to family. That was the big thing for me."
After nine years as an assistant coach — the first seven at his alma mater, and then two years as MerCo's JV coach before succeeding his prep mentor Brian Hutton as the varsity head man — Jones enjoyed instant success with the Eagles. In his first season, MerCo finished 24-7 and shared the Lincoln Trail Conference title with 2018 Class 1A state runner-up Annawan and Wethersfield. This past winter, the Eagles slipped to 13-18, 5-4 in the LTC.
"I was handed a good program from Coach Hutton," Jones stated, "and I felt the staff and myself continued to improve it and go in the right direction."
Jones feels that his successor, Tim Sedam, will continue to build upon the work of the last few years.
"I feel like Coach Sedam will keep it going in the right direction," he said.
As for himself, Jones is not leaving coaching behind. In fact, he has an open invitation from Hutton to help out with the Sherrard boys' hoops squad, and did so during summer activities. Plus, there are his own kids to coach.
However, he will still continue to follow Mercer County's hardwood fortunes in the Sedam era.
"I fully intend to follow Mercer County, go to some of their games and be supportive of them," he said. "My family was 100 percent supportive of me continuing to coach there. I just feel like this is in everyone's best interests at this time."