Mike Jones, right, will be directing the football action at Libertyville.
Photo courtesy Libertyville High School
Do the math, and you don't have to be Mike Jones to understand that the Libertyville football team's 21-26 record since 2007 doesn't make the grade.
"We just have to build consistency on both sides of the ball," Jones said. "It seems like we can never put it together."
On Monday night, the District 128 school board approved the hiring of the 43-year-old Jones as Libertyville's new head football coach, hoping the longtime assistant can put together a program that not long ago was putting up numbers that a math guy like Jones loves.
"It's a privilege getting a job like this," Jones said. "The atmosphere on Friday nights, the student body ... You feel really blessed to get a job like this."
After 13 years at Grayslake, where he taught mathematics and coached both football and boys basketball, and also met his wife, Jones joined Libertyville's staff in 2003. He served as linebackers coach that fall, when the Wildcats lost in overtime of the Class 7A state championship game.
The following fall, with Jones having been promoted to defensive coordinator, Libertyville and head coach Randy Kuceyeski went 14-0, capturing the program's first state title.
"I kidded with him after the second year," Jones said of Kuceyeski. "I told him, 'You should have hired me a long time ago. I've been here two years and we've been to two state championship games.' "
Jones served eight seasons as defensive coordinator under Kuceyeski, who stepped down following this past season. With their head coach on the sideline every Friday night, despite enduring regular sessions of radiation and chemotherapy throughout the season, after being diagnosed with cancer last spring, the Wildcats made the playoffs with 5 wins.
It was just their second postseason appearance in five years.
Jones becomes just the third head football coach for Libertyville since 1977, following a 17-year run by Dale Christensen and an 18-year run by Kuceyeski, who was a mentor and role model to Jones.
"I'm hoping I can carry on his legacy," Jones said.
"Libertyville has a long tradition of football success with involvement from the community," athletic director Briant Kelly said. "Mike will follow in the footsteps of a great coach, but I am confident that Mike will put his own stamp on the program. There will be changes in the program that will get Libertyville back to the top of the NSC (North Suburban Conference) and (back to being) a perennial contender in the IHSA state playoffs."
In Jones, who Kelly said went through a rigorous interview process and beat out more than 100 applicants, Libertyville has a proven leader who credits his smarts for the reason why his Harvard High football team had him play quarterback in addition to linebacker.
Jones earned seven varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball at Harvard, where he graduated from in 1986. He then attended Monmouth College, where he earned a degree in mathematics and was a four-year letter winner in football as a linebacker. Named a captain his senior year by his teammates, he helped Monmouth go 34-5 during his career.
Jones and his family have become member's of Libertyville's family. His wife, Michelle, followed him to Libertyville and serves as athletic secretary. The Round Lake Beach couple has two children, Michael, 12, and Bailey, 10.
Daddy knows kids.
"His leadership, teaching and coaching skills became evident in the interview process," Kelly said, "as these skills are important when working with our student-athletes."
Jones, who's built like a middle linebacker, believes he's put his stamp on the defensive side of the ball and can do the same on the offensive side. He plans on running a wing-T offense.
"The great thing about being a defensive coordinator is that you know how defense works," Jones said. "If you know that, you can apply it on the offensive side of the ball."
The mathematics fanatic is eager to start crunching numbers and solving problems.
"The best thing about math is, it comes down to one answer," Jones said. "There's no ambiguity. There's a definite concrete answer at the end. ... I think that analytical part of it helps me in coaching."
He counts on it.