SALEM, Va. – It was a special night at the Roanoke Valley Sports Club as it welcomed current James Madison University head men’s basketball coach, Mark Byington. The Salem native talked about his journey from being a standout high school player for the Spartans to being a 1,000 point scorer at UNC-Wilmington.
“It’s great to be back in Virginia, back in Salem and just walking through these doors, I’m seeing people that impacted my life enormously,” said Byington. “Coaches, friends — it’s a cool night and I’m glad I have a chance to do more of these being closer to home.”
Byington accepted the JMU job in March of 2020 and had an immediate impact on the struggling program. On Monday night, he touched on his first season leading the Dukes, how it exceeded expectations and the positive trajectory of the program.
“If you would’ve told me before this season that we’d be going to the regular-season championship, I would’ve thought you were crazy,” Byington said. “But, I kind of got around the guys and saw their motivation. They kept learning, growing and kept getting better. And I love the fact that we almost ignored the expectations others put around us and the guys placed a load on themselves and what they wanted to do and they loved proving people wrong. That was a good quality this year.”
The Dukes went 13-2 (8-2 in conference play) and won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and Byington was named the CAA Coach of the Year.
Impressive debut season that ended on a sour note with an injury to the CAA Player of the Year in Matt Lewis.
“That adjusted our team and what I like about it is what we built going into that. What we showed playing without Matt Lewis, gives us hope for next year and the future looks bright. I love our recruiting class coming in, love the guys coming back. Our schedule will be daunting next year, UVA at home and a bunch of challenges. So, it’s going to be hard but our guys want it and I think we’re building it the right way,” he said.
The sports club also honored Glenvar wrestling champion, Jake Cline and Glenvar’s state champion swim and dive team. The Sports Legends awards went to long-time coach and broadcaster, Paul Bernard and former Salem head basketball coach, Charlie Morgan.