Gene Frenette: Jordan Mincy's culture could turn around Jacksonville University basketball

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jacksonville University's grind-it-out, 54-51 victory Saturday night over the University of North Florida was an early sign that first-year Jordan Mincy might be building a winning culture for his Dolphins' program.
Jacksonville University's grind-it-out, 54-51 victory Saturday night over the University of North Florida was an early sign that first-year Jordan Mincy might be building a winning culture for his Dolphins' program.

It’s way too early to know whether the Jordan Mincy era of Jacksonville University basketball will lead to a breakthrough season, which has eluded the Dolphins for the past decade.

Since JU won a regular season ASUN title in 2009-10 under Cliff Warren, the program has been defined by consistent underachievement and fooling itself into thinking that ascending into a contender again was somehow imminent.

Maybe, and nobody should view it as anything more than cautious optimism at this point, things can be different this time with the mentality being instilled by Mincy in his first year as the JU head coach.

The Dolphins’ grind-it-out victory Saturday over crosstown rival University of North Florida — prevailing 54-51 in easily the lowest scoring game in the 18-year history of the series — was a textbook example of the blue-collar, Big Ten-type mindset that Mincy has brought to JU.

He might be one of the youngest head coaches in Division I at 35, but Mincy has a strict, old-school approach with the Dolphins. A lot of it comes from growing up in a basketball family and learning from older siblings Jerome, who played at UAB and had his jersey retired there, and sister Jada, a scholarship player at Ole Miss.

No 3s, no problem: Shots don’t fall for Kevion Nolan, but he sparks Jacksonville past Stetson

Looking ahead: The week ahead in First Coast college basketball

A real Rumble: Jacksonville outlasts North Florida 54-51 in gritty, physical game

“When you’re in a family like that and you have older siblings to go to that are so successful [at basketball], at times you have a chance to look up to them and understand how they are,” said Mincy. “Being able to watch them grow up in the family, see how they sacrificed, along with being raised by a Dad [Willie Mincy] who is a police officer and my Mom [Sharon Pruitt-Mincy] who is a teacher. I mean, ultimately, you have to sacrifice.”

Winning pattern for Mincy

It’s what Mincy has known and been taught all his life, on and off the basketball court. As a point guard, he led Memphis Ridgeway High to a Tennessee Class 3A state title in 2005, then went off to Kent State where he remains seventh on the all-time assists list with 347, guiding the Flashes to two NCAA tournament appearances.

So when given his first head coaching opportunity, Mincy wasn’t about to veer away from the values that brought him success as a player and at six different coaching stops as an assistant, including the last seven with Mike White at Florida.

His Gators’ experience was the most eye-opening. He had a boss in White who played the same facilitator role as a point guard at Ole Miss and pushed for Mincy to get the JU job.

“We played a lot of minutes and barely scored it,” White told the Times-Union about Mincy on the day the Dolphins hired him. “Our role was to get better players more shots, be accountable and win. Jordan has won everywhere he’s been. His ego will never get in the way of what’s most important.”

It was no coincidence the Dolphins (11-4, 3-0 in ASUN) eventually squeezed past UNF (4-13, 0-4) by exhibiting those same team-first traits. By no means was this an artistic display of basketball on either side, so the outcome came down to who might blink first or make one more stop on the defensive end.

“We knew it was going to be a fistfight,” said UNF coach Matthew Driscoll. “They’re going to muck it up and do whatever they can to minimize possessions and win games.”

Mincy’s Dolphins put special emphasis on holding opponents down, so much so that JU took over the top spot in the nation in scoring defense at 54.47 points per game, by a razor-thin margin over Texas (54.53 ppg). The 51 points by UNF was its lowest total against an ASUN opponent since losing 73-46 at Florida Gulf Coast on February 8, 2014.

JU held an Ospreys’ program, known for the moniker “Birds of Trey,” to a microscopic 12 percent shooting (3 of 25) from three-point range. With the game on the line, it was an open three-ball from the Dolphins’ Tyreese Davis with 1:08 remaining that broke a 49-49 tie and ultimately made the difference.

This was precisely the kind of game the Dolphins typically lost to UNF, which had won 14 of the previous 18 meetings, including eight by margins of five points or less.

JU ready to push back

But Mincy’s first game coaching in the River City Rumble sent a message to the crosstown rival that JU might be pushing back a lot more in the future. On a night where Dolphins’ leading scorer Kevion Nolan was held to three points on 1-for-9 shooting, they managed to win by outwilling UNF in the big moments down the stretch.

Forwards Osayi Osifo, a Florida transfer who had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Mike Marsh (10 points) were a big reason the Dolphins outmuscled UNF inside in the second half. JU finished with 13 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second-chance points.

Fittingly, the game-deciding defensive play with three seconds remaining was a microcosm of both JU’s style and Mincy’s imprint on his program. As UNF’s Dorian James started driving toward the basket near the free throw line for a potential game-winning shot, the Dolphins’ Jordan Davis reached in to steal the ball and forced James to foul. Davis made both free throws for the final margin.

JU didn’t flinch in the biggest moment. It’s one of many reasons Osifo, who played one season with Mincy at UF, knew he wanted to be part of his rebuilding job with the Dolphins.

“Me and coach Mincy have always been passionate, energetic,” said Osifo. “I’ve enjoyed playing the game tough, physical and relentless.

“That’s the culture he has brought here. It’s not easy to build a [winning] culture. Our culture is being true.”

Actually, “true” is really a Mincy acronym, a four-part definition of his JU culture that starts with each letter in that word. The T is to “Trust the process and the people around you.” The R is “Relentless work approach on and off the court.” The U is “United decisions and actions. The E is “Every detail matters.”

The fact Osifo can recite that whole “true” mantra without hesitation speaks to the impact Mincy has made on his players. It’s what he learned growing up and had confirmed to him along his basketball journey.

“When you talk about culture and being selfless, you also talk about defense and defense is selfless,” said Mincy. “You have to give energy, you have to make sure that you help others out, you have to be accountable. In every aspect of my life, that’s kind of what I was taught.”

All the former Kent State point guard is doing is passing it on. Time will tell if that lays the groundwork for a JU hoops revival that has taken far too long.

The Dolphins also started out 3-0 in ASUN play last year, then proceeded to lose seven consecutive games. So Tuesday night's road showdown game against East division co-leader Liberty will be an important test to see how much staying power JU has when it comes to being a league contender.

So far, Mincy's Dolphins at least have a defense that could bring about a transformation.

gfrenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Gene Frenette: Jordan Mincy "selfless" JU hoops culture may produce turnaround

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting