Mavs From the Past: Popeye Jones


Ronald “Popeye” Jones was a valuable player on both ends of the court who has continued to help current NBA players as an assistant coach.

College Years

All four of Jones’ college years were spent at Murray State University. In his first year at MSU, he averaged 5.8 points per game (PPG), 4.6 rebounds per game (RPG), 0.7 assists per game (APG), 0.6 steals per game (SPG), and 0.2 blocks per game (BPG). In his first year at MSU, he was used as a reliable piece off the bench and only started in one out of the 30 games played that season. The team finished the season 19-11.

Jones took a huge leap in his sophomore season. He averaged 19.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, and 0.6 BPG while starting all 30 games. He led the Racers to a 21-9 record and an NCAA tournament appearance as the No. 16 seed in the Southeast Region. MSU got eliminated in the first round by the No. 1 seed, Michigan State. Jones was an All-OVC first-team selection and the OVC Player of the Year.

Jones continued to lead the team to success. In his junior year, he averaged 20.2 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 1.2 BPG while starting in 32 out of the 33 games played. The Racers made the NCAA tournament as the No. 13 seed in the Southeast Region. Again, MSU lost in the first round, this time to the No. 4 seed, Alabama. Jones led all NCAA players in rebounds with 469. In addition to being named to the All-OVC first-team, he was named OVC Player of the Year and OVC Athlete of the Year.

In his senior year, Jones continued to be an integral part of MSU’s success. He averaged 21.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 0.9 BPG while starting in 29 out of the 30 games. MSU qualified for the tournament for the third year in a row, this time as the No. 14 seed in the Midwest Region. For a third straight year, the Racers were eliminated in the first round, this time by Arkansas, the No. 3 seed. Jones won the OVC Athlete of the Year award for the second consecutive year and was named to the All-OVC first-team for the third straight year.

In his four years at MSU, he averaged 16.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. Jones holds various records at MSU such as the fourth-most points (2,057), most rebounds (1,374), sixth-most steals (159) and fourth-most blocks (136). He also has the second and third most rebounds in a season while at MSU, along with 11 of the top 13 games with the most rebounds. In MSU history, he is the only player to have more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Welcome to the Professionals

Jones was selected 41st overall by the Houston Rockets in the 1992 NBA Draft. After getting drafted he played a season overseas in Italy. He never saw any playing time with the Rockets as he was traded the following offseason to the Dallas Mavericks.

In Jones’ first season with the Mavericks, he averaged 5.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. In his first year with the team, he was used both off the bench and as a starter. He played 81 games and started 47 of them. On March 10, 1994, in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers Jones set the record for the most offensive rebounds without a single defensive rebound, as he grabbed 12 offensive boards and 0 defensive boards in the game.

In his second year with the Mavericks, most of his stats and playing time took a good jump. He averaged 10.3 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 2.0 APG. His steals and blocks however did go down as he only averaged 0.4 SPG and 0.3 BPG. His second season saw him start at power forward in the 80 games he played.

Jones continued to improve in his third year with the Mavericks. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. He started all 68 games he played. In a game against the Indiana Pacers on January 9, 1996, he grabbed 28 rebounds, a franchise record that still stands today. The Mavericks, however, failed to improve as they continuously had a losing record each season. As a result from losing seasons, changes needed to be made. On July 23, 1996, Jones was traded by the Mavericks to the Toronto Raptors.

Traveling Around the League

Jones spent two seasons on the Raptors. He spent a season and a half with them. While he was there, he was mostly used as a starter, starting in 65 out of the 93 games he played. He missed the whole second half of the 1997-98 season due to a knee injury. On February 18, 1998, he was traded to the Boston Celtics.

Jones played the lockout-shortened season with the Boston Celtics. He played in 18 games while starting two of them. His time in Boston was short however as he was traded to the Denver Nuggets during the 1999 offseason.

During the season, Jones played 40 games and started one of them. His time in the mile-high city wasn’t long either as he was traded the following offseason to the Washington Wizards.

In his two seasons with the Wizards, he played in 124 games and started 41 of them. He saw some improvement in his second season as a Wizard as he went from 3.6 PPG in his first year to 7.0 PPG in his second season.

Return to Dallas

Jones made his return to the Mavericks during the 2002 offseason, after signing with the team as a free agent. During his second go-round with the team, his role reduced exponentially. He played in 26 games, all coming off the bench and playing around 8.5 minutes per game (MPG). He averaged 2.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, and 0.2 SPG. He wasn’t given as much playing time as his first tenure with Dallas, but at the same time, he wasn’t producing the same as in his earlier years in the league.

His Final Season

The Mavericks traded Jones to the Golden State Warriors during the 2003 offseason. He played only 10 minutes in five games during his final season. The Warriors waived him the following offseason, bringing an end to his NBA career.

Coach Jones

Jones didn’t step away too far from the court as he helped with player development in Dallas. In his time there with the team, they made the playoffs all three years from 2008 to 2010, making it as far as the Western Conference Semifinals in 2009. 

In 2010, he got a job as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Nets. Jones was an assistant coach on the Nets from the 2010-11 season to the 2012-13 season. While with the Nets, he worked as an assistant coach for Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo. In his three seasons there, the Nets only made the 2013 NBA playoffs and lost in the first round.

Jones was then hired at the beginning of the 2013 season by the Indiana Pacers as an assistant coach. He helped coach the Pacers from the 2013-14 season to the 2019-20 season. He coached under head coaches Frank Vogel and Nate McMillan. The Pacers had great success in his time there as an assistant coach. They made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year with the team. They made the playoffs from 2016 to 2020 but got eliminated in the first round each time.

In 2020, the Philadelphia 76ers hired him to be an assistant coach on Doc Rivers’ coaching staff. The 76ers were successful at making the 2021 NBA playoffs but they got eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

During the 2021 offseason, Jones was hired as an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets. He coached under head coach Mike Malone. The Nuggets made the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round.

Life Outside of Coaching

Jones has two sons, Seth and Caleb, who are both currently playing in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Popeye, Jones’ nickname, comes from the cartoon character of the same name.

Jones coached kids from all over Europe at Basketball Without Borders Europe 2018 in Serbia.


Jones was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame and his No. 54 jersey was retired by his alma mater.

Jones had a successful college career setting many records at MSU. He also had an adventurous NBA career, helping on both ends of the floor, especially with rebounding the ball. He’s had much more success as an assistant coach, having already made the playoffs eight times as a coach, compared to zero times when he was a player in the league. Jones continues to mentor and teach the next generation of NBA players to help them succeed on and off the court.

Categories: Mavs Fans For Life, Mavs From the Past

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1 reply

  1. I see there are some good picks for a Center. We hope the team has a good draft camp. Good luck to the Mavs. Mavs Fan for Life. Tim

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