The menu included hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and a speech, but not any old speech. Butch Jones was in town. And as Bill Dunn says, Butch Jones is a "huge deal" in Saugatuck.
They gathered at St. Peter's Parish Hall on July 5. About 75 locals happily paid the five bucks for the Mens and Sons Banquet. Not an impressive number, until you realize there are only 925 people in the small Michigan town.
That's like 14,000 Knoxvillians attending a Father-Son brunch.
"Butch is beloved here, no doubt," said Alan Babbitt, the sports editor of The Holland Sentinel, the largest daily paper nearby. "You could argue he's the favorite son around here. He's the most prominent sports figure the town has ever had."
And that was even before Butch Jones was named the football coach at the University of Tennessee on Friday.
The story of Jones' ascension from coaching jobs at Central Michigan to Cincinnati and now at Tennessee, beat the odds.
The preface was penned up in Saugatuck.
To hear Dan Wilson tell it, the Lake Michigan resort destination is a quaint, uncomplicated place that ebbs and flows with the seasons. Wilson, Saugatuck High School's retired athletic director of 34 years, has lived in the town since the fall of 1972.
"We live in a glass box," he said proudly. "Everybody knows everybody."
Even in the summer time, when Saugatuck's population triples. A few thousand tourists swarm the lake's shoreline between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The downtown area — defined by three or four streets running north-south and three or four more running east-west — teems with vacationers from Chicago milling the restaurants, retailers and art galleries.
The winter brings solace. And lake effect snow.
Son of police chief
For 26 years, Lyle Jones oversaw the town as chief of police. He took the job in August 1967 after joining the force a few years beforehand. Lyle Jones, the son of an auto mechanic, worked as a truck driver for the Harris Pie Company in Saugatuck prior to that.
"As police chief, he dealt with things the way they needed to be dealt with," said Russ Stone, Saugatuck High's retired basketball coach. "It wasn't with an iron fist, but with his heart. He was somebody you want to be around; a hard worker. They don't make many guys like Lyle anymore."
When Lyle Jones passed away in April 2009 of complications from emphysema, an anonymous citizen posted on the funeral home's website, "As a pesky kid in the late '60s and early '70s, I spent many hours sitting in Lyle's office at the corner of Griffith and Culver. He was always patient and good to me, no matter what else was going on."
"Lyle meant a lot to this town and he did a great job raising Butch," Stone said.
Named after his pop but dubbed "Butch," the younger Lyle Jones was born in 1968. His mother, Betty, worked as an administrator at a local hospital.
Growing up as the son of the police chief in a town like Saugatuck comes with certain expectations. Butch Jones understood and embraced it, but went his own way.
It led to the football field and basketball court.
When Butch Jones was in elementary school, the principal handpicked him as manager for the high school basketball team. He proved to be a perfectionist. Each folded towel had a crisp crease. Everything had its place.
"He was the kid leading all the other kids on the playground and the one everyone looked up to in the classroom," Stone said.
According to a 2009 Cincinnati Enquirer profile on Butch Jones, he started washing dishes at a local restaurant in Saugatuck at 13. Paychecks went to his mom, who opened a savings account for college.
It came in handy after Jones graduated from Saugatuck in 1985. A quarterback in high school, he enrolled at Ferris State University, about an hour up I-131 North in Big Rapids, Mich., and walked onto the football team.
The career was brief. After converting to wide receiver, he was given a scholarship for his sophomore year. A knee injury ended that season – and his playing days — forcing Jones to look at alternate avenues to stay in football.
Having worked two summers as an intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he knew the direction.
Barry Fagan, his offensive coordinator at Ferris, hired Jones as a student assistant.
"The questions that he asked; the things he learned; the suggestions he made — it all stood out," Fagan said. "They were at a higher level."
Just 18 credit hours short of graduating, Jones was contacted by Doug Graber, the newly hired coach at Rutgers and former defensive coordinator with the Bucs. A graduate assistant position was open.
Jones didn't hesitate.
Fagan kept his eye on his old student assistant in the years that followed. After two years as a GA at Rutgers, Jones accepted the offensive coordinator position at Division II Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
In 1995, Fagan knew he was leaving Ferris State the following season. He called Jones, told him to return to Big Rapids, take a paycut and work as the team's running backs coach.
Fagan promised Jones he'd inherit the offensive coordinator job.
It happened just like that.
"He's always had a love for coaching," Fagan said. "It's obvious."
After just one year as an offensive coordinator at Ferris State, Central Michigan University called Jones. He was offered the position of tight ends coach.
"A group of players, five or six, came into my office and asked if the school could pay him more," remembered Larry Marfise, Ferris State's athletic director at the time. "They really wanted to keep him. I had to explain to them that it wasn't about money. This was a Division I coaching position."
Fourteen years later, Jones was introduced as Tennessee's 24th football coach.
"Watching him grow has been an amazing thing," said Stone.
Talk of Saugatuck
Vacationers might be a bit confused by the influx of orange in Saugatuck next summer. The T-shirts have changed from Central Michigan to Cincinnati to Tennessee.
"You can bet it's the topic of conversation around here," said Bill Dunn, Saugatuck High's football coach.
Jones will still visit. His widowed mother remains in town. Her house is perched on a hill overlooking downtown.
Saugatuck can't wait till he returns.
There's plenty to talk about.
"Whenever he comes back, it's always fun," said Wilson. "We look forward to it. He gives us his time, but doesn't seek attention. That's good. We want him to relax here."