HARRISONBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -- Twenty-five years ago this month, Mark Byington was helping Salem win a 2A state title under head coach Charlie Morgan.
Now, he's headed back to the Commonwealth as James Madison's next head men's basketball coach.
Following a four-year playing career at UNC-Wilmington, the former Spartan entered the coaching ranks and has two decades of experience with plenty of mentors in the game, including Morgan.
"He prepared us like a college team, a great basketball mind," Byington recalled. "I played for Jerry Wainwright and he probably impacted me moreso in wanting to be a coach than anybody else. I felt like he taught so much more than basketball. He taught guys how to deal with real-life situations, and how to be ready for the real world.
"Brad Brownell was assistant coach down there, now the head coach at Clemson. Probably the best basketball mind I've ever been around and we constantly talk to this day, and just a great impact on me and my basketball philosophy. I take pride in this. I'm gonna steal things from everybody I have come across and sometimes it's an opponent coach and sometimes it's somebody I'm on staff with but I am always trying to constantly evolve."
Byington believes that the Dukes are a sleeping giant in college hoops and can't wait to get started with his new team.
"It's excitement. I'm anxious. I want to get going," he said. "I really want to start practice tomorrow. I want to be around the guys. I want to teach them. I want to help them. I want to get things ready to open that brand new arena so we have an exciting basketball team. It's beyond excitement. That's the best way I can put it."
Byington has talked with each of his new players over the phone, but it's unclear when he'll get to meet with them in person because of COVID-19.
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