When Donnie Jones first interviewed to become the men’s basketball head coach at Stetson last year, he left Stetson Athletic Director Jeff Altier with a book: “Why the Best are the Best.”
The 2018 work from Kevin Eastman, who coached college and professional basketball from 1978 to 2016, explains exactly what the title states. Altier said he read it, couldn’t put it down and realized it reflected how Jones viewed leadership.
It was on-brand for Jones to share a book with Altier in their first meeting. He is a veracious reader and listed a couple other books he recommends: “What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture” by Ben Horowitz and “Legacy” by James Kerr, both of which he’s currently reading.
Jones said reading is core to his pursuit of persistent progress, but it doesn’t stop there. Podcasts play a big role in his daily dose of growth.
“Every day, my morning begins with that,” he said. “Podcast, reading, sharing, passing stuff on to other people to encourage, to grow. I’ve spoken on probably 15 or 20 webinars in these two weeks, and not many have been basketball, though some have.”
This routine does more than give Jones a way to spread positivity. His profession is founded on successful leadership.
“It’s important to your coaching,” Jones explained. “I think you have to be ever-evolving as a coach, and if you’re not growing, if you’re the same guy you were this past year, then you’re behind. Your whole goal is to be able to look back and have perspective, and with that perspective, you’ve got to be able to learn and educate yourself. Leaders are readers, but they also have to take the things they read into action.”
Without consistently opening yourself up to hearing outside perspectives, you can’t expect to bring new ideas to your team and the people around you, coach or not, he said.
“The opportunity to learn from a lot of people, you can do that in this social media world,” Jones said. “The ability now to listen to podcasts and read books and hear viewpoints, you take those things with you, because for you to grow other people when you’re in these positions, you have to be able to grow yourself first. You can be taught how to connect and communicate with any walk of life, because you’re equipped.
“How are you just putting yourself in a box and you only know one thing? Education is forever growing, and I think you have to have a mindset for that.”
To Donnie Jones, there is only one way to be.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying, man,” he said. “You gotta grow. You can be anything you want to be. Education I s something no one can take away from you. You’ve got a choice every day to feed yourself. I encourage you to keep growing, man. Leadership is learned. You ain’t born with it.”