Folks who have met Wil Jones believe he could sell hot tubs in the desert or talk the glitter off gold.
His immaculate attire, gleaming jewelry, sleek automobiles, confident swagger and sharp wit are all part of the Wil Jones show that can only be upstaged by his just as entertaining basketball team, the University of the District of Columbia.
The top-ranked and defending NCAA Division II champion Firebirds, are 28-2 and share the longest winning streak in the nation, 23, with Division I's No. 1, Houston.
UDC plays Morningside of Iowa in a semifinal game Friday at 8 p.m. in Springfield, Mass. Wright State, led by former Theodore Roosevelt star Gary Monroe, plays California State-Bakersfield in the other semifinal at 6. The winners play for the national title Saturday at 8 p.m.
UDC's Earl Jones and Michael Britt were named first team Division II all-America by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Monroe was on the second team.
The Firebirds, who live by the fast break and full-court defense, are the closest things to Wil Jones' heart.
"I love 'em," said Jones. "I think they have picked up some of my personality, my confidence. Ask any of them a question, you'll be able to tell. I think I have a lot to give kids and I would rather work with them than with some hard-headed adult."
Jones recently showed his affinity for his four seniors by wearing a tuxedo to the Firebirds' final regular-season home game.
"We thought that tuxedo was wild but we're never surprised at anything Coach Jones does," said guard Phillip Morgan. "But he's a great motivator and that was his way of telling us there was no way we were going to lose. Not that game. (UDC beat then No. 2 Cheyney State, 100-82.) He's always prepared.
"In the game we played against Howard two years ago, we were losing by one point with three seconds left and he pulled a play out of his suit coat pocket as if he knew it would come down to one shot. We missed the shot but we got the one we wanted."
Jones insists all of his antics and sideline arguments with his assistant, Doc Robinson, are planned.
"The tuxedo wasn't show," Jones said, "that was for my seniors. You wear formal dress to special occasions and to me, that was a special occasion for those four kids and their parents. I go top of the line for my kids."
Jones' first major recruit, Michael Britt, says his coach will do anything for his players.
"He treats me well, both as a player and as a person," said Britt, who is from Suffolk, Va. "And, whenever my mother comes here to visit D.C., he always tells her I'm safe here."
In the relatively short span of four years, Jones has brought respect to UDC. The school has been striving for a positive image in Washington since it was created by a merger of D.C. Teachers and Federal City colleges and Washington Technical Institute in 1976.
"There's no stigma attached to going to a Division II school," Jones said. "Yes, a lot of kids come here needing a year of remedial help and most might not graduate for five years. Do all the kids who go to Division I schools graduate in four years? Or at all?
"It's just that the news media and the public are more attuned to the big (Division I) schools. People need to see more of us. I think we represent the city very well, although they haven't done much to help us. We're a state school and the city could help our students a little with housing, transportation, etc. My kids aren't complaining. And I haven't lost one yet."
Jones, 40, is a compassionate man who displays more than a coaching interest in his players. Except for a few close friends and his 12-year-old son Wil, his players mean everything to him.
"I gave my son two dozen T-shirts that were engraved 'UDC National Champions, Head Coach Wil Jones, Assistant Coach Wil Jones II.' He gave one to his buddy and one to his mother and kept the others," Jones said. "Now isn't that just like Wil Jones."
A brash, arrogant sort who loved to taunt opponents as a player at Dunbar High School and American University, Jones still wears that air of conceit and cockiness but uses it to his advantage. During a game, Jones will stomp, scream, whistle and even cry. At times, he becomes so irritated at his players or an official's call, he appears to lose control. But that's just another Jones ploy.
"I sit at home thinking about what I'll do in certain situations," said Jones, who fouled out on purpose during a college game in order to get a standing ovation. "I know what I'm doing at all times. I play the crowds, whether they're negative or positive. I play my kids' moods. I know when to get on them, when to leave them alone.
"Whenever I walk in a game, I want people to think I don't know what I'm doing. The best compliment I ever received was from the Gannon coach (Richard Fox).
"We both stooped down to wipe up a wet spot on the floor and he told me, 'I heard all these things about you being flashy, loud and flamboyant but you're one hell of a coach.' We were beating him pretty good but he didn't have to say that. I'll always remember that."
Jones has no immediate plans to leave UDC but said he would listen to other coaching offers.
"I've had four (offers) but I wasn't interested in them at the time," Jones said. "Besides, I couldn't leave Earl (Jones, a junior). We've had a fantastic four years (86-26 record) . . .
"Sometimes, I wonder what it's like to lose. I'm satisfied with the job I've done here but not with my salary. I want to stay in coaching, I love it. I'm the cum laude of my profession, why leave?"