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Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist

Tom Jones

Tom Jones writes columns and television/radio commentary for the Tampa Bay Times' Sports section. He has covered everything from high schools to colleges to professional sports since starting with the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1986. After the Independent, Tom worked at the Times (1987-91), the Tampa Tribune (1991-96), the Times again (1996-2000), the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2000-03) and returned for his third stint at the Times in 2003. Though he has covered all sports, Tom is a hockey writer at heart. He covered the Tampa Bay Lightning from its first game in 1992 until moving to Minnesota to cover the Wild for three years. He returned to the Times again to cover the Lightning until taking over as writer and editor for Page Two in 2006. He lists Herb Brooks, Lou Piniella and Wayne Gretzky as the most interesting personalities he has covered and the 2002 Winter Olympics as the best event he has covered. Tom co-hosts a sports talk show weekday mornings from 6-9 on WDAE 620-AM, 95.3-FM. He previously hosted a weekly sports roundtable show on Bright House Sports Network.

Phone: (727) 893-8544


Radio talk show (620-AM, 95.3-FM): Listen live

  1. Jones: South Carolina's Frank Martin a coach anyone can root for


    Frank Martin's life changed late one night in 1992.

    He was 26, working as a bouncer at a Miami nightclub, just the latest in a series of odd jobs he held. He got his first at age 12 — at Dairy Queen in Little Havana. He worked in a pool hall. He tended bar. He washed dishes. He cooked in a greasy spoon.

    On this particular night, he did what bouncers sometimes do. He broke up a fight and kicked out the troublemakers. At 2:30 in the morning, one returned with a gun and started shooting....

    South Carolina head coach Frank Martin argues a call during the first half in a second-round game against Duke in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt) SCCB141
  2. Jones: Florida's impressive season ends in NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight


    NEW YORK — Two years ago, Mike White showed up in Gainesville to take over a once-proud basketball program that had lost its way.

    It wasn't going to be easy. There were no shortcuts. The process was going to be long and difficult with setbacks and growing pains. The old coach, Billy Donovan, even warned him of the potholes that laid ahead on the road to restoration.

    The team lacked toughness. It lacked character. It lacked the heart and desire and discipline that used to be routine at Florida. The players spent more time whining than winning....

    As UF’s Justin Leon walks off, South Carolina celebrates after rallying to reach the Final Four. The Gators ends a 27-9 season with reason for optimism.
  3. Florida loses region final to South Carolina to fall short of Final Four


    NEW YORK — One miracle 3-pointer sent the Gators into the East Region final against South Carolina. But there was no magic in the Gators' 3-point shooting Sunday.

    When doing the autopsy on fourth-seeded Florida's 77-70 loss to No. 7 South Carolina, zero in on this stat: The Gators were 0-for-14 on 3-pointers in the second half. And that pretty much allowed South Carolina to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit for the upset....

    Justin Leon puts up a 3-pointer during the first half, when Florida had some success behind the arc. That would change.
  4. NCAA Tournament: After Chiozza buzzer-beater, Gators prepare for South Carolina


    NEW YORK — The texts started coming almost as soon as Chris Chiozza's winning 3-pointer went through the net.

    "I heard from everybody that probably I ever met," Chiozza said.

    He hit "read all," and, at last count, he had received more than 200 texts. Everywhere he turned — television, his e-mail, Instagram — he saw video of his greatest basketball moment again and again and again. Florida fans will see it forever....

    Guard Canyon Barry keeps Florida close in overtime by blocking Wisconsin guard Khalil Iverson’s breakaway.
  5. NCAA Tournament: Gators part of SEC surge into Elite Eight


    NEW YORK — It's not just a football conference anymore. Now the SEC has bragging rights in basketball. Of the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, three teams are from the SEC, more than any other conference.

    Kentucky plays North Carolina today in the South Region final, and Florida meets South Carolina in the East, guaranteeing at least one SEC team will make the Final Four.

    After his team beat Baylor on Friday, South Carolina coach Frank Martin thanked all the other teams in the SEC for making his team tough enough to play in the tournament. Kentucky coach John Calipari spent his postgame victory against UCLA on Friday night bragging about Florida and South Carolina....

    PJ Dozier, with the ball, and South Carolina join UF and Kentucky making a basketball statement.
  6. Jones: Chiozza's buzzer-beating 3 sends Florida Gators to NCAA Elite Eight


    NEW YORK — The ball left Chris Chiozza's fingertips and more than 20,000 fans inside Madison Square Garden and millions watching on national TV fell silent, holding their collective breath as the ball floated through the air.

    Less than four seconds earlier, the Florida guard had taken the inbounds pass underneath his own basket and sprinted nearly the entire length of the court with his team trailing by two in overtime. He weaved his way around two Wisconsin defenders, stopping just shy of the 3-point line. How anyone could make this mad dash, while dribbling a basketball, in less than four seconds, is nothing short of amazing....

    Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) drives to the basket during the second half in the East Region Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York on Friday, March 24, 2017.
  7. NCAA Tournament: Just call Koenig, Hayes thinkin' Badgers


    NEW YORK — Even if you're a Gator fan, there are two players on Wisconsin who deserve your respect in tonight's East Region semifinal: seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.

    Aside from being one of the nation's best guards, Koenig is everything that's right about student-athletes. The team's top scorer (14.5 ppg) is smart, socially active and an inspiration, particularly kids....

  8. Jones: Maybe Florida's Mike White can fill Billy Donovan's shoes after all


    NEW YORK — At first, it sounds awesome. Some might call it a dream come true.

    You're not yet 40. You're coaching at a small school and one of the nation's elite programs calls to ask if you want to be their head coach.

    You say yes. Of course you say yes. This is what you've always wanted. Dream job. Then when the goose bumps settle and you crash-land back on Planet Earth, it hits you....

    Coach Mike White takes photos with Zev Goodman, far left, and Josh Unger, 12, of New York with other Gator fans at MSG.
  9. Verne Lundquist not ready to step away from broadcasting altogether


    NEW YORK — Verne Lundquist went on a month-long cruise from Cape Town to Singapore and gave speeches the entire time. He has been calling college basketball games since January. He was in New York on Thursday getting ready to work this weekend's East region of the NCAA Tournament. After that, he's off to his annual gig at the Masters.

    These days, he goes home to Colorado just long to kiss his wife, Nancy, and grab some clean clothes. Then it's another plane, another hotel room, another sporting event....

    Verne Lundquist, right, talks with Barack Obama, center, and Clark Kellogg, left, during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke in 2010.
  10. CBS analyst: Adjustments have been huge for Gators


    NEW YORK - Lost in the Gators' run in the NCAA Tournament is that they are doing it without big man John Egbunu. When the 6-11 transfer from USF went down with a torn ACL in February, most thought he took Florida's postseason hopes with him.

    After all, he was averaging nearly eight points and seven rebounds a game. Plus, he was playing intimidating defense, which has been the cornerstone to Florida's success this season....

    The guy CBS analyst Jim Spanarkel really likes? Chris Chiozza, whom Spanarkel calls "wild card.''
  11. East Region field less attractive but wide open


    NEW YORK — The World's Most Famous Arena doesn't have the world's greatest regional. Not on paper anyway.

    The East region of the NCAA Tournament has come to Madison Square Garden, but a couple of college basketball heavyweights did not make the trip.

    No Villanova. No Duke.

    Oh no.

    The top two seeds and two of the most glamorous programs in the country are home after falling victim to upsets in the second round of the tournament last weekend....

    The Florida Gators take on Wisconsin in Friday's nightcap.
  12. Are Florida and the East Regional worthy of Broadway's bright lights?


    NEW YORK —The World's Most Famous Arena doesn't have the world's greatest regional. Not on paper anyway.

    The East region of the NCAA Tournament has come to Madison Square Garden, but a couple of college basketball heavyweights did not make the trip.

    No Villanova. No Duke.

    Oh no.

    The top two seeds and two of the most glamorous programs in the country are home after falling victim to upsets in the second round of the tournament last weekend....

    Florida Gators guard Canyon Barry (24) does the 'Gator Chomp' after his team defeated the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday, March 16, 2017. The Florida Gators defeated the East Tennessee State Buccaneers 80 to 65.
  13. NCAA Tournament: Sixteen thoughts about the Sweet 16


    The Sweet 16 isn't so sweet. March Madness hasn't been so mad.

    Not this year.

    We've had a little of everything. We've had upsets. We've had top seeds advance. But it has been odd NCAA Tournament so far. And odd doesn't always translate to good.

    So as we wait for the next round to begin on Thursday, here are 16 thoughts about the Sweet 16:

    1. Where's the one shining moment? Two high seeds and two big favorites — defending champ Villanova and preseason No. 1 Duke — are out. But, thus far, this tournament has not provided that one special play or game or moment. No buzzer-beaters. No thrills. No madness....

    Florida head coach Mike White celebrates with fans after a 65-39 win against Virginia during the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1199182
  14. Tom Jones weighs in on the weekend of televised sports

    TV and Radio

    Best coach

    If voting took place right now, Florida's Mike White would deserve plenty of consideration for college basketball coach of the year. His work in the NCAA Tournament has been superb. He has pulled all the right strings, made all the right substitutions and dialed up all the right plays in victories over East Tennessee State and Virginia.

    True, Virginia is offensively challenged, but to hold any team under 40 points in a tournament game is remarkable....

    Florida Gators head coach Mike White reacts to a Florida foul in the first half during the game between the Florida Gators and the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.
  15. Jones: This just in, Leonard Hamilton and FSU exit early again in NCAA Tournament


    ORLANDO — As the seconds dwindled down, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton made the slow and all-too-familiar walk to center court to congratulate the opposing coach. That's how FSU's basketball season ended Saturday night.

    That's how every FSU basketball season ends under Hamilton.

    In disappointment. In frustration. In failure.

    Another promising season down the tubes. Another season full of hope wiped out by a baffling loss. Another chapter in the book of a program that gets you all giddy in January but simply doesn't have what it takes to navigate its way through March....

    The scoreboard is not a pleasant sight for Leonard Hamilton at the Amway Center. The FSU coach is now 4-5 in the NCAA Tournament in his 15-year career at Florida State, reaching the Sweet 16 only once, in 2011.