Photo by Bob Nuse / The Stone family will get a break from their busy schedule to spend some quality time together for the holidays. Left to right are: Carson, Jen, Jon and Ryan.
By Bob Nuse
Jon Stone didn’t arrive at the Hun School 19 years ago thinking it would be the place where he would carve out his future life.
But it also didn’t take him long to realize it was a place he could indeed start and raise a family.
Jennifer (Pontani) Stone was as close to a Hun School lifer as you could be when she graduated from the school in 1993. Her mother worked in the admissions office and she attended the school from sixth grade through graduation.
Fast forward to 2018 and Jon and Jennifer are about to celebrate 13 years of marriage and are raising their two sons at Hun. Both are members of the faculty and have found the school Jen attended and Jon began working at 19 years ago as the perfect place for them.
“I remember when I took the job I felt like this could be a place that I would be for a long time,” said Jon, who is in his 19th season as the school’s head basketball coach. “I never would have said definitely. But it was the kind of place where I could be here this long. It’s hard to believe. Some days I feel like I’ve only been here five years, which is a good thing. That means I enjoy it.”
Jen graduated from Hun and figured she might have put the place in the rearview mirror. She went on to graduate Widener University, and in 2003, returned to her school for her high school reunion and the beginning of her future took shape.
“When I met Jon, I met him at my 10-year high school reunion here at Hun,” Jen said. “They have a huge party and the young teachers come and Jon likes to connect with the alumni basketball players. We met there.
“We went out to Wildflowers in Pennington and I thought, this guy is awesome. He is so like me. He likes sports. I like sports. You meet guys who like sports but they never played and they are all into professional sports. He knew sports and liked them and I like sports.”
The Stones are now settled into life at Hun, although their life is anything but settled. In addition to coaching basketball, Jon is the Director of Resident Life and teaches math, while Jen teaches math in the Upper School. The couple also have two sons who are active in sports as well, 10-year-old Carson and 7-year-old Ryan, as well as their dog, Gracie.
Jon and Jen initially bonded over sports and it remains a huge part of their lives between Jon’s coaching and the boys playing. Jen, who is a member of Hun’s Athletic Hall of Fame, was a standout in high school and was also active as an ice hockey player until giving that up just recently.
“This weekend we had a swim meet, hockey practice, a Christmas pageant and basketball,” Jon said. “These guys have other interests as well and we support their other interests. We want them to have a variety of interests. In season, though, if it wasn’t for Jen they couldn’t do everything they do.”
Jon has coached Ryan in baseball and coached Carson in flag football. He’s also coached both basketball.
“I’m not there every practice, but they enjoy me coaching them and that is part of the reason I do it, because they ask me to,” said, who played college basketball at Colgate.
Living on campus at Hun gives Carson and Ryan a unique experience growing up. Not only do they get to know the players on their father’s team by watching, they see them every day around campus.
“We love going to the games,” Jen said. “The away games are harder to get to, especially when they are pretty far. These guys as they get older like it more because they understand the game. And they know the kids because we live here. And because we live here we see the kids in the dining hall.
“We’ve had some players that are around in the summer time that they see. It’s like a family because they see them in our everyday life and not just at the court. It’s not just Dad’s basketball team. These are the kids that we live with. The first day of school, Carson and Ryan are eating breakfast with Max (Adelman, a Hun varsity player). He got to know them this summer because he was here over the summer.”
Somehow the family manages to fit in the coaching, the activities and everything else and they make it work.
“When I think about it I don’t know any different,” Jen said. “But I think about this place in a different way now because I am a teacher here. Before I was just a student. Now I am a teacher and eventually if the kids get to go here we’ll know it as being parents.
“It’s a lot of work. But when you like what you do it doesn’t seem like a lot. I think with us both being in it helps build that understanding of how much time you have to put into it. It is a lot.”
After playing a game against Academy of New Church on Wednesday, the basketball team has some time off for the holiday break. It’s a chance for the family to be together more than usual during the basketball season.
“I always say it’s good for my family and bad for my basketball family,” Jon said. “To have that kind of time off is hard for the team but it is great to spend some time with my family.”
For the Stones, the basketball family and their own family often feel like one and the same. The players and coaches in the program have seen Carson and Ryan grow up and the boys have gotten to know so many of the players.
“They love coming back and seeing these guys,” Jon said of his former players. “When they see these guys and how much they have grown. Some of them remember when these guys were born. It’s fun for them.”
Added Jen: “The fun thing is someone like Jose (Morales) who is at Princeton. These guys got to know Jose really well so they love going over to Princeton to see him play. That’s fun. We go over there and they’ll see Jose.”
For Jon and Jen, it has worked out perfectly at Hun, a place Jon had no problem settling into and one Jen embraced upon her return.
“This is our life,” she said. It’s nice because I can say let’s go down to the gym and see Dad while he’s at practice. We can just walk right there. And you’re in Princeton, New Jersey, which is incredible. We’ve just met so many great people in this area. We’re friends with the Princeton High lacrosse coach, Chip Casto, who also has kids our kids’ age. There are just a bunch of nice people. It’s just a great area to be in.”
And for Jon and Jen, they knew right from the start this was a match that would work.
“She was the only girl I ever knew outside of my sister who played ice hockey,” Jon said with a smile.