Devon Jones wore the championship net like a necklace Saturday night.
He held the twine with both hands, bearing an expression of deep reflection. The memento has extra meaning now as Jones on Tuesday stepped down after five seasons as the boys basketball coach at Capital Christian High School, a program he helped elevate from small-school champion into large-school powerhouse.
Athletic director Suzanne Baker made the announcement just days after the Cougars won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship, Jones’ fourth section title. On Friday, Capital Christian will play top-seeded Woodcreek in a CIF Northern California Open Division first-round game.
Citing health concerns, a need to be home with his growing family and the demands as CEO of an electrical contracting firm, Jones bid farewell to his players, who have long looked to him for guidance.
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The overall stress really got to me the last 2
Devon Jones, former Capital Christian boys basketball coach
Jones, 38, sidelined himself Feb. 4 after being hospitalized because of alarmingly high blood pressure. He pours himself into everything he does: family, work, coaching and his faith. Something had to give before he gave out, Jones said.
Ernest Taubodo, who has gone 9-0 as interim coach, including the section title win, will coach Capital Christian (23-7) the rest of the season. The Cougars have won 18 consecutive games.
“This is all life changing,” said Jones, who tried to return to coaching after being hospitalized. “But I’m at peace with this decision. I’m feeling happy, OK with it. My passions are my kids, and my basketball kids, and my community. I was so stressed out with work and coaching and not being at home enough that I had to step away.
“The overall stress really got to me the last 2 1/2 months. I had chest pains, a blood pressure over 200. Really scary. It was a life-threatening situation. I felt like I was dying, and my doctor said I need rest, to relax.”
We told Devon that we care more about his health, his family, his business, and basketball is fourth on that list. He’s worn down.
Suzanne Baker, Capital Christian athletic director
Jones planned to resume head-coaching duties for Monday’s practice. By Tuesday morning, he knew he was finished. Jones said he will coach high school basketball again somewhere, but it may be a few years. His electrical contracting work requires him to travel across the country and has left him little time to spend with his wife, Shana, and 3-year-old Mila, 9-year-old Myles and 16-year-old Isaiah. (Tiegen, 18, is attending Fresno State on a baseball scholarship.)
Jones also said the pressure of maintaining a strong basketball program can be immense.
“We’re high profile, with a lot of high-profile players, and we have a lot of parents who want their kids to play more,” Jones said. “That’s something all of us coaches deal with, but it’s never easy. You can only play five guys at a time. We all want the best for these kids. But I need to stay healthy. I need to enjoy family time. It’s time for me to step away.”
Baker, the athletic director, said she’s happy Jones is placing a priority on his health over basketball.
“We told Devon that we care more about his health, his family, his business, and basketball is fourth on that list,” she said. “He’s worn down. It’s hard on everyone because we all love Devon, but we tell him, ‘I get it, buddy. Take care of yourself.’ I don’t want him to stress again, and this isn’t coaching summer league with shorts and flip-flops.”
Jones said he’s confident Taubodo will maintain the Cougars’ success, and he expressed gratitude to Baker and basketball booster and friend Phil Oates, a former Cougars coach.
“Ernest knows what’s he’s doing, an excellent coach, and the kids love him,” Jones said. “He’s a great choice to keep coaching this team.”
Junior guard Zach Chappell, one of several Capital Christian players generating national recruiting interest, said the Cougars will be fine.
“We’re strong,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot.”