Sitting in the gymnasium at Phoenix South Mountain for the Phoenix Union High School District Holiday Classic for boys basketball stirred up my memories of when the district ruled the day in just about every sport, particularly basketball.
One of the great programs came out of Phoenix Union itself. The Coyotes won state big-school championships in 1960, 1961, 1967 and 1968.
The architect was Gerald “Wimpy’’ Jones.
Jones had a long teaching and coaching career that included Duncan, Coolidge and Phoenix Maryvale in addition to Phoenix Union.
His ties to the PUHSD reached a second generation when his son, Brent, starred at Phoenix Alhambra in the late 1970s and went on to play at Arizona State.
Sadly, Wimpy Jones passed away in Phoenix on Dec. 31 at age 93 with his family by his side. His services were held Saturday (Jan. 4) in Phoenix.
Jones was born in Mesa and was an athlete in Mesa High. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard. As a young adult, he developed into one of the top softball pitchers in the state. In 31 years, he pitched 45 no-hitters and a perfect game in which he struck out all 21 batters.
He was inducted into the Arizona Softball Foundation Hall of Fame in 1978.
Jones loved sports and attended events even after he left coaching.
He and some of his coaching colleagues from around the district and the Valley kept in touch on a regular basis, meeting at a small family hamburger joint in north-central Phoenix and swapping stories. The coaches also played golf on occasion and met at a course in the southwest Valley. The attendees likely had to wear high boots with all of the bull-shoot being tossed around.
Wimpy led a long, full life and the athletes he coached, the men he coached with and his long list of friends are richer by having known him.
And those title trophies, wherever they are, are shining a bit brighter today.