ATHENS — Jonas Hayes had an offer to return to Georgia and be a part of new coach Tom Crean’s first staff at UGA. But instead, the former Georgia player will be heading north.
Hayes has been named a new assistant coach at Xavier, the school confirmed on Monday, shortly after DawgNation and other outlets, including UGasports.com, reported the move.
“In the few short weeks that I’ve come to know Jonas and to work along side of him I became a big fan,” Crean said in a statement. “We would have loved for him to stay, but we totally understand his desire to start a new chapter in his career at Xavier. Jonas leaves with our respect and thanks for all that he has done for UGA. He’s got an excellent future, and he will always be a part of this university and basketball family.”
Hayes was on Georgia’s staff for four seasons as an assistant coach to Mark Fox, and another season prior to that on staff as an operations staff member. He played at Georgia from 2001-04.
After Fox elevated him to full-time assistant, Hayes emerged as a potent recruiter, leading the way to get Yante Maten, a future SEC Player of the Year. He also was the lead recruiter on Ashton Hagans, a 5-star point guard in the 2019 class who committed to Georgia last year, then de-committed amid the uncertainty of Fox’s future.
When Fox was fired, there was some sentiment to consider the 37-year-old Hayes as a potential replacement. But Georgia, after first being turned down by Thad Matta, quickly hired Crean, the former Marquette and Indiana coach.
Crean and Hayes then hit the recruiting trail together, an indication that Crean was interested in retaining Hayes. Indeed, Crean confirmed in a radio interview last week that Hayes had a “lucrative” offer to remain at Georgia.
But Hayes also had interest from other programs, and on Monday a deal with Xavier was finalized.
Xavier also has a new coach, Travis Steele, who was elevated from assistant coach on the staff of Chris Mack, who left for Louisville.
Thus far Crean has officially named one assistant coach — Chad Dollar, a former Georgia Tech assistant who knows the Atlanta recruiting scene well. Crean has two more assistant coach spots to fill. Dollar’s hire did not preclude also bringing back Hayes, as Crean is aiming to have a strong staff for recruiting.
But Hayes has elected to take an opportunity elsewhere.