MISSOULA – Ron Jones officially retired as a coach at Missoula Hellgate last May, but it’s never too late to honor a legendary career.
The National High School Athletic Coaches Association will induct Jones into its Hall of Fame.
Jones already entered the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004. In total, he spent 53 years coaching the Knights in track and field, cross country, football and wrestling. His track teams won three state championships, and he coached 96 individual state champs and nine all-Americans.
Jones still remembers a conversation while he was a college student at the University of Montana that got his coaching career started.
“He called up and he said, ‘You know, they need a (coach). Cub scouts are trying to do a little touch football. Can you come over and help us for a little bit?'” Jones said. “And I went over and I thought, ‘Well, this is fun — making up plays, drawing up plays.’ And that just stayed with me forever. I really enjoyed it, and working with kids.”
Jones held the head coaching job at Hellgate in boys and girls track and field and boys and girls cross country for a combined 78 seasons of competition. Jones has a full trophy case, but he admitted this most recent honor felt extra special.
“It was exciting, because I’ve heard of a lot of people from Montana that have been in the national level,” said Jones, referencing his old high school coach Jug Beck. “And just being able to come back and say, ‘Wow, I’m with these people.’ They’ve been in it a long time. I’ve met other coaches around the nation that are national. And it’s a big step up.”
Jones thanks his family for giving him unending support throughout his years coaching, and he’s thrilled his wife and sons will join him at the induction ceremony in Bismarck, N.D. this coming June.