NATCHITOCHES — Rick Jones always savored the thrill of a monumental win.
Before he retired after 21 seasons at Tulane, Jones-coached teams beat rival LSU to advance to one College World Series and claimed a No. 1 seed going into another.
Now the longtime Green Wave baseball coach has found something to match those feelings: his induction to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
“A week from now, I’m going to be reflecting on this like I would a big win we had to get us to the World Series,” Jones said. “This is a very special time for me. When I got the call, which was six or seven months ago, I was honored and so surprised. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this weekend and what it would mean. I’ve had the chance to reconnect with so many people from New Orleans who are here. What a great experience; it’s been everything I expected and more.”
Jones was part of an 11-member group inducted during the 57th annual ceremony Saturday night at the Natchitoches Civic Center.
Jones, who had a 814-439-2 record, is one of two inductees who represented the New Orleans area. Former Louisiana Tech and NBA post player P.J. Brown is the other. Brown played 15 NBA seasons, including a stint with the New Orleans Hornets. The Winnfield native also won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics.
“It’s an honor to represent a great organization and a great city,” said Brown, the first New Orleans Hornet inducted.
Other inductees included St. Thomas More High football coach Jim Hightower, former Louisiana-Monroe and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets and another Winnfield native, former Michigan and NFL running back Anthony Thomas.
Three inductees were honored posthumously: Louisiana College women’s basketball player and coach Janice Joseph-Richard, Negro League baseball standout “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher and LSU/Southeastern coach Arthur “Red” Swanson.
Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award winner Dr. Julian Bailes, a renowned neurosurgeon and concussion expert, and two winners of the Distinguished Service in Sports Journalism award, longtime LSU broadcaster Jim Hawthorne and sportswriter Bob Tompkins of The Town Talk, completed the 2016 class.
Hurricane Katrina had a role in shaping Jones’ tenure at Tulane. The Green Wave advanced to a regional final that year, despite spending the fall semester at Texas Tech following the storm.
“When we were getting ready to come back to New Orleans, I told our team, ‘If you see a house that’s dilapidated or you see sheet rock in the front yard, don’t be depressed,’ ” Jones recalled. “We didn’t have a stadium — Turchin was gone, and we were playing our games at Zephyr (Field in Metairie). I told them to think about the fact that watching you play may be the highlight of the day for somebody. Watching you play can help them get some sense of normalcy back.”
For Jones, working at Tulane truly was a job he always aimed for.
“I know how fortunate I was to be where I was,” he said. “I worked 18 years, going through junior high, high school, being a college assistant and a head coach to get my dream job — and Tulane was my dream job.”