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Mark Byington, JMU Dukes Men's Head Basketball Coach

JR Sports Brief / JR
The Truth Network Radio
March 19, 2024 6:47 pm

Mark Byington, JMU Dukes Men's Head Basketball Coach

JR Sports Brief / JR

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March 19, 2024 6:47 pm

Mark Byington joined JR to discuss his emotions after making the NCAA Tournament and why his team is battled tested heading into their first round matchup against Wisconsin. 

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See store for details. Coach Mark, thank you for taking the time to hop on. Appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for having me. You know, hearing that interact, it gives me chills.

I haven't really watched the game or seen anything from that, but I love that and I hope there's more to come. Well listen, let's talk about getting into that moment. You know, you have your experiences and your time down here in Georgia with Georgia Southern, and now you've been able to help turn things around for James Madison in the four years that you've been here. What did you take from that first experience that you really implemented now at JMU? Well, it's so hard to get here at our level, and I was there at seven years at Georgia Southern, and I thought at a minimum three years, maybe four, but at least three years that we could have been there at Georgia Southern. By second year, we had two three-pointers that went off the back rim that would have put us in the ENCA tournament, and I would have kept Ron Hunter from tearing his Achilles, but I think he'd probably rather have the torn Achilles if one of the threes went in. And then a couple years later, I had another guy, a major guy, we couldn't make the run we wanted to, and by last year at Georgia Southern, COVID hit, and we were hot. We were one of the final four teams, we won, and I thought we had everything that felt good. So when you're like that at our level, it just makes you appreciate when you get here, because it's not always the best team. I think with our wins, our success this year, we've proved that, but many times at our level, it's not the best team that gets there, so you gotta be appreciative when you get there.

Head coach of JMU Mark Byington is here with us, the JR Sport Reshow on CBS Sports Radio. The win last week to win the Sunbelt, that was last week. You guys got off on a very interesting start by knocking off the Spartans to start off the year 79-76 in overtime. And there's a little bit of a family affair that's involved in how you guys even got that matchup.

Tell us about it. Yeah, so we had to play a guarantee game like a lot of teams at our level. We had to bring money in for a school, and my choice in that is to play a team that's regional. And those teams are a couple Big Ten teams, and SEC, and ACC, and we couldn't get any of them to play us.

Nobody within driving distance, we tried every single one of them. And we had to use a favor. My assistant, Matt Buckland, his uncle is Tom Izzo, and we're kind of figuring out where are we going to have to go to try to find a guarantee game.

And he's like, I'll call my uncle. And sure enough, they were having trouble finding the opening team in their place. I think they won some crazy amount of games in November, so people were excited about going there. But I think both of us were a little bit desperate.

It worked out, and we went and played. It was a heck of a game. An overtime game to start the season and got to win there. And every since there, I told our guys after that game that this is not going to be our biggest game.

It's not going to be our best memory. And I'm glad I was right, because we had a lot more since then, and the best was yet to come. Well, listen, you guys were able to reel off 14 consecutive victories after knocking off Michigan State to open up the season. What did that do for your confidence, that opening game? I think you guys were the first to 14 victories, period. What did that do for the team?

How did you see them grow? Well, when you're in that situation, and this is first for me too, and a lot of coaches don't go through it, so I was blessed to go through it. But when you're in the top 25 for eight weeks, and you're at our level, it is a lot of pressure.

And I can say it wasn't. I can tell my guys, I know you don't feel it, but you're lying. Because we know if we lose, we're out and we're not coming back. And sure enough, with everything we've done, we've won 31 games.

I think the latest AP poll, I think we're 30 or 31. So once you lose, you're not coming back. But what you're getting at that time, you're getting everybody's best shot.

You're getting their best media marketing and attendance and everything else. And what it did for us, it sharpened us. It made us get even more focused. It made us get better. We knew that was coming. And it takes a special group of guys.

If my guys embrace the pressure, they like it. Without a shadow of a doubt, Mark Byneson, head coach of JMU, is joining us. Well, you guys have won the Sunbelt. You did that. You got a game.

You're going dancing. It's this Friday night against Wisconsin. Given all the success that you have had throughout the course of the season, and then last week winning the Sunbelt, how do you kind of keep things tempered and even knowing that you've got a few more days to wait? Well, we had a long break. We haven't played since last Monday. And so as a coach, you're worried about everything.

Are we going to be sharp enough? And what do we got to do to stay ready? And then you got the excitement, selection Sunday. And you know you're in, but you don't know who you're playing or where you're going.

And then you found out Wisconsin. And as a coach, you're like all excited and everything else. And then you start watching film of them. And you're like, oh my gosh, it's going to be a tough game. And they're big.

I think they got a pro on their team, an AJ Stor, terrific point guard, seven footers. So you're excited. But then it's like, all right, let's get back to work. Let's get focused and let's take a shot.

I understand that. Now, coach, there are going to be a lot of people in the country who, despite your success, are going to be tuning in for the first time. What can people look forward to when they watch JMU?

What are some points of emphasis for people who have never seen the squad? Well, I can tell you what we've been so far this season, and I hope it's what carries over in the NCAA. We got a veteran team.

I got older guys. And you mentioned Georgia. I got two terrific players that are from the state of Georgia, both from Atlanta and TJ Bickerstaff and Terrence Edwards.

Both of them are all-conference players, and Terrence Edwards is player of the year. And then I have an older guy, Noah Furdell, came from South Dakota. I brought in grad transfers, and I got a fifth-year guy, Julian Wooden. So we're an older team, and my guys have been through a lot. I mean, when you go through life, I tell guys throughout the season to keep learning, keep learning. But you go through life, and these guys have kept learning.

They've taken experiences where they're good and bad and learned from them, and it's put them at this spot. We're a fast-paced team. We score a lot of points.

It's going to be hard against Wisconsin because they slow it down. But we're free-flowing. We let it fly. We're aggressive, and we go after it. Coach, you talk about Terrence Edwards from here in Atlanta.

This man is very experienced. You talk about four years. He's dropping about 17, 18 points a game. How important is it, especially with all the changes in the transfer portal, that you can have some continuity with a guy? It's extremely important. I mean, with this day and age, you're looking at rosters, turning upside down every single year. And we brought in some key transfers, but to have the continuity of a guy like Terrence Edwards who's been there four years, he knows what I'm about to say probably before I'm about to say it. And then the bigger thing than that is he can tell the other guys on the team before I'm about to say it so he can be a leader.

And that's important. You get to a point in the season where everybody knows everything and the prep and it gets kind of tired and everything else. And it's got to be a player-led team at some point to be good. And many times he took the reins and he led in his way and did a good job with that. Head coach of JMU, Mark Byington, is here with us at the JR Sport Reshow on CBS Sports Radio. When you talk about the transfer portal, we have seen legendary coaches just exit stage left over the past several years, whether it be Jim Boeheim, Coach Dushefsky, Eagle League Saban on the football side. From your perspective, knowing that you could turn things around quickly, but then also there can be exits, does this make your job as coach more difficult or easier? Well, the first thing is, you know, I think you've got to embrace it.

And I'm not sure, you know, it's difficult. And then the whole college basketball, college athletics, got flipped upside down a couple of years ago. And our philosophy is, look, this is great for the student-athletes.

It's great for them to be rewarded. The transfer stuff can be scary sometimes because that doesn't always mean better. I mean, there's a lot of guys who make mistakes and when they should stay and they transfer out or transfer to the wrong place. But with us and our philosophy is just bring the right guys in.

And we use transfers and we try to keep guys, but bring the right guys in. We've got to make sure that their number one priority is winning because that's what this comes down to. It's a team sport. You've got to win. You've got to win together. And so we try to find that the best we can.

And it's not easy. It is really tough for myself and a lot of coaches, but we found the right group in this one. Well, coach, when you think about JMU, there's so much growth with you on the basketball side. There's growth on the football side as well. How is the university helping support this turnaround in athletics? Yeah, I think the university kind of caught fire this year with tension. And one of the things that I always tell maybe a professor on campus or administrator or somebody who's not directly in athletics is that if our athletic program is successful and we're national, then we can get to tell your story.

We can tell the story about the biology department, the education, the business school or the campus and everything. And that happened this year. I mean, our football team and us are ranked in the top 25 at the same time. And there was a period that it was it was cool. I love to see it.

There was about a month where you would look on television and you see JMU all over. And that's great for everybody here. And it's a special place and they deserve it.

And I'm glad it got the attention they deserve. Well, coach, good luck against Wisconsin this upcoming Friday. Hopefully you guys can keep on dancing all the way through. Do you have any words? Do you have anything that you want to share with the listeners in Harrisburg and people listen all over the country?

What do you have to say? Yeah, go do keep rooting for it. It's a terrific group of guys. And I know your market, too. And I've got the Atlanta guys to keep on coming up because I look better when I got them on my roster. Hey, listen, I'll try to send some folks on up.

Just let me know. OK, coach, I got you. You're my assistant coach down there. Appreciate it. Hey, listen, I'll take the title. Hey, good luck, coach. All right. All right.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-19 20:54:19 / 2024-03-19 21:00:43 / 6

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