Casey Jones ’90 is returning to the Red this year after a 15-year absence. The former four-year letter winner and Cornell assistant coach has completed his move to Ithaca from Columbus, Ohio, where he served as associate head coach for the Ohio St. men’s hockey team for the last 13 years.
Arriving in Ithaca with his family last Friday, Jones went to the park on the weekend, visited the waterfalls and other sites of natural beauty, but he also started his Red hockey reeducation by hanging around Lynah Rink — getting a feel for the “names and faces” of the current squad and taking in the team’s obvious enthusiasm.
It is easy for Jones to share that enthusiasm for his alma mater, the place where he met his wife Kim during his senior year. He believes that combining the first-hand knowledge and excitement of an alumnus with his years of experience on the national recruiting scene will make him an even more effective recruiter.
“Recruiting is sales, and when you’re excited about the product you have to offer … you can sell it better,” he said. “[Head coach Mike Schafer ’86] has been describing to me … the type of player they want, that has done well here.”
Jones will carry over his experience as the Buckeyes’ recruiting coordinator. Five of his recruits were drafted in the first two rounds of the NHL Draft over the last eight seasons, while the team as a whole has qualified for the NCAA Tournament three of the last six seasons.
“When you have recruiting experience, it’s invaluable,” Jones said. “You’ve been through the wars and the leagues. … You have the contacts.”
After seeing off his family earlier this week and settling into Ithaca, there’s already work to be done on the road. With several months to go until the official start of the season, Jones will be heading out this weekend on a recruiting trip to his old haunting grounds in Ohio.
“I’ll see some guys we have committed for the future and introduce myself to them,” he said. “It’s the same territory I’ve been covering for many years. I’ll just get out there and be wearing a different jacket.”
Not only will Jones be familiar with the environment of Ithaca and Lynah Rink, but the Cornell hockey personnel already have some experience with the former star player of the Red. Schafer manned the bench at Lynah Rink as an assistant coach for all four years of Jones’ Cornell career.
Both former Red captains, both former assistant coaches — now that both Jones and Schafer are a few rungs higher on the hockey ladder, Jones does not expect to have any problems adapting his style to Schafer’s.
“He’s been a good mentor for me over the years,” Jones said. “I’ve spent so many hours over the years chit-chatting hockey with him.”
As Schafer did, Jones stayed on with the Red right after graduation, serving under former head coach Brian McCutcheon from 1991-1993.
From Cornell, Jones stayed within the ECAC family for a couple years with a stint at Clarkson. He helped oversee the Golden Knights as they secured an ECAC championship and NCAA berth in 1995.
Schafer invited Jones to visit, and he came around Alumni Weekend. This gave him the chance to reconnect with some old Cornell friends and mull the offer before him to rejoin the community.
“Talking with [Schafer] about what his vision was … it was a good match. It’s a good opportunity for me to continue to grow,” Jones said.
Jones replaces former assistant coach Brent Brekke, who had been at Cornell for the past nine years and worked with the defense. On June 24, it was announced that Brekke was taking a position with the Miami University (Ohio) RedHawks.
At Ohio St., Jones focused on the defense, as well as the power play and penalty kill units. In 2002-03, the Buckeye defense netted a No. 2 national ranking in goals-allowed per game and a No. 3 ranked penalty kill.