Coaching stays in the family at Morristown with Head Coach Bobby Jones and his younger brother, Steve Jones (both far left). (Photo / Prudential Center)
On March 9, the Morristown Colonials won their first NJSIAA state title, proving three is the luckiest number.
That night, as the scoreboard signaled the end of the game, a shower of crimson gloves and hockey sticks hit the ice as players rushed to one large group near the boards. As the program’s first title, it was a special moment for the team, but for the two Jones brothers watching from the bench, the win went above and beyond.
We’re both on the same page, and that does kind of trickle down to the team and create a better team chemistry. - Morristown Head Coach Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones and his younger brother Steven have been a head coach/assistant coach duo for each year that the Colonials have made it to the finals. To finally capture the elusive title was just something else in their long hockey careers that they were able to share together.
Shortly after Bobby graduated from Morris Knolls high school, where he was coached by fellow NJSIAA Champion Walt Keiper, Steven won a title of his own with the Golden Eagles. However, this time around things were a bit different.
“Winning a state championship, I was a young sophomore, and it was special to me winning as a player and there really is no feeling like that,” said Steven. “But knowing that, turning around and when that 30 seconds was mentally scored, then watching the time go down to six and five and everyone is screaming the time was going off of the clock, looking over and having [Bobby] next to me on the bench, there is no greater feeling than that.”
“I couldn’t have thought of any better person to spend that with,” countered Bobby. “… A huge championship together and I can’t think of anyone else who I’d want to share that moment with.”
Growing up, Steven had a tendency to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and looked to him as a hockey mentor. Both boys played for the New Jersey Devils Youth team and when Bobby made the decision to attend Morris Knolls, it wasn’t long before Steven also became a Golden Eagle. When Bobby left home to play for West Chester University, a few years later so did Steven. It only made sense that he would then follow him back to coach Morristown.
“I don’t think I missed one game throughout his four years [at Morris Knolls] and [he] played freshman through senior year … it’s something that I looked forward to and dreamed about … it was something that I wanted,” Steven said about his older brother. “Then he went off to college and I didn’t get to see him as much because I was playing high school hockey, but I knew the couple times when I saw the team, I knew that is where I wanted to go. He kind of led [his own] path and I just kind of followed him.”
After Bobby’s third season coaching the Colonials and Steven’s final year at WCU, he made the decision to bring on his younger brother on as an assistant, not accepting no for an answer.
|This year's Public B title was the first in Morristown's program history and Head Coach Bobby Jones. The win was made more special with his younger brother, Steve, standing next to him on the bench. (Photo / Prudential Center) |
“Besides him being just very confident in the sport of ice hockey and being so knowledgeable, I feel like I work really well with him. He’s not only my brother, he’s my best friend and we talk constantly,” Bobby said.
The chemistry the two coaches have on the bench has been a lifetime in the making. It was one that was forged playing pond hockey on Indian Lake in Denville, New Jersey. It was then enhanced through pushing each other back and forth and remains strong to this day by continuing to coach and play side-by-side, even if the younger brother now has the upper hand.
“I’m sure that [Steven] would say we’re so competitive because he’s four years younger than me, so I used to beat him all the time,” Bobby said. “But now, we still play men’s league together and he’s got a couple of inches on me, and developed into a great player. I say he’s only better than me now because I used to beat him when we were younger.”
That is a fact that some younger brothers may deny, but not Steven. In fact, he thanks him for it. “He used to beat up on me a little bit, so it only made me better and better each time. When I was playing kids my own age … they weren’t as good as his team so he was always there, pushing me, so it was always good to have that.”
The brothers might have grown up playing together, each focusing on defense, but their styles of coaching are vastly different. Whereas Bobby remains very defensive-minded, Steven likes to run a more offensive-defensive strategy. He likes to find ways to utilize the defense in order to score and Bobby trusts him to do so. That is why on his second day as assistant he was given control of the team’s defense.
“There’s never any animosity between the both of us. We usually think the same way, we never really argue, we never really have any different conflicting ideas. We’re both on the same page, and that does kind of trickle down to the team and create a better team chemistry,” Bobby said.
When Bobby was named The Star-Ledger’s Coach of the Year at the end of March, it wasn’t just a special moment for him, but for his younger brother as well. Even after all these years it is clear that the brothers look up to one another and values what the other has to say, which is something that proves beneficial to Morristown hockey.
“Being able to coach with [Bobby] is something that’s really special, and to watch him care so much about the program and the kids, and to be able to mentor these kids through their freshmen and senior years, and develop them, is something that I want. It’s really special to see your brother do so well as head coach,” Steven said.
For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.