Pippen celebration won't be the same without Arch Jones

Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen recalls the life of Arch Jones, one of his college coaches at Central Arkansas and closest friends


“Coach Jones was a nice, caring, easy-going guy,” said Pippen of Jones. “He’s one of the people in my life who I made sure I kept his phone number over the last 30 years. Then again, I’m sure everyone in Conway had it too.” (University of Central Arkansas Sports Information)

>> Central Arkansas retires Scottie Pippen's jersey (01.21.2010)
>> Pippen: "Odds were against me when I arrived at Central Arkansas"
>> UCA's Dyer: Socks and jocks to the Hall of Fame for Pippen (08.08.2010)
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By Adam Fluck | 04.07.2011

When the Bulls unveil a bronze bust of Scottie Pippen during halftime on Thursday, it will be a reunion of sorts for the Hall of Famer, who will be joined by several family members, close friends and former college teammates.

But the night won’t quite be the same for Pippen without Arch Jones in attendance.

Scottie Pippen with Arch and Artie Jones
“He was a very close friend, but he was a father figure as well,” said Scottie Pippen of the late Arch Jones, above with his wife Artie.
(University of Central Arkansas Sports Information)

Known by most folks he came to meet during his years at University of Central Arkansas as “Big A,” Jones passed away on March 25 at the age of 68. But to Pippen, who preferred to call him “Coach J,” Jones was much more than an assistant coach, his formal position when Pippen arrived at the then-NAIA school some 28 years ago.

“He was a very close friend, but he was a father figure as well,” said Pippen of Jones, who had a 45-year career in education that included coaching, teaching and administration at the high school and collegiate level.

The unlikely success story for Pippen, who grew up in tiny Hamburg, Ark., about three hours south of the UCA campus, started to take off once he and his older brother, Billy, made the trip to Conway to meet with head coach Don Dyer.

Only 17 years old and a high school senior at the time, Pippen just over six-feet tall and hadn’t received a single scholarship offer. Dyer and UCA didn’t have any available to offer him, but presented Pippen an opportunity

to walk on with the assistance of a Pell Grant and work study job.

It was shortly thereafter his relationship with Coach J would begin. While Dyer was at times demanding and tough, Jones was one who kept his young players’ heads up and offered unconditional support. It made an impact on Pippen, who quickly came to trust Jones as the two developed remarkable chemistry.

“From a basketball standpoint, both Coach Dyer and Coach Jones helped me in different ways,” said Pippen of his development. “But with Coach J, we bonded right off the bat and continued to be friends over the years. We actually got even closer after I was done playing college ball. I always enjoyed catching up with him, as well as his family.”

It was difficult to think about Arch, Pippen said, without Artie, his wife of 47 years, also coming to mind. The two would often make trips to Chicago during the 1990s and were back at the United Center in December of 2005 for Pippen’s jersey retirement ceremony. Arch and Artie also made the trip to Springfield, Mass. when Pippen entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last August.

Pippen, who attended funeral services for Jones as an honorary pallbearer, said many of his fondest memories of Jones all happened away from the court—on the golf course, talking over the phone or enjoying some dinner.

“Coach Jones was a nice, caring, easy-going guy,” said Pippen. “He’s one of the people in my life who I made sure I kept his phone number over the last 30 years. Then again, I’m sure everyone in Conway had it too. Coach Jones was a very genuine person and he never said no to anyone. He’s someone I’ll really miss.”

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