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JMU introduces new basketball coach

Story by Chris Graham

Listen to today’s “SportsDominion Show” to meet new James Madison University men’s basketball coach Matt Brady. Show Length: 33:19.

newjmucoach.gifFour years ago, the decision was made to go with a man who was an assistant with a top-level program.

When the Dean Keener Experiment didn’t work out as it had been hoped, James Madison University athletics director Jeff Bourne put head-coaching experience as a top priority in his search for a new men’s basketball coach.

“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good assistant coaches that couldn’t do well here. I’m sure they could. But as part of our process this year, we really wanted to try if possible to find an individual who had head-coaching experience. And just looking at what Matt’s been able to do at Marist, and the pedigree and background he brings from the coaches he’s worked around, whether it’s (Phil) Martelli or (Al) Skinner or that group, they’re great coaches, so he’s been nurtured from the ground up. And I think he’s got the right tools,” Bourne said today after announcing former Marist coach Matt Brady as the new head basketball coach at JMU.

Brady, 42, was 73-50 in four years at Marist, after inheriting a team that had gone just 6-22 in 2003-2004, the season before he assumed the mantle at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school.

Keener finished his four years at JMU with a 31-85 record, including a disappointing 13-17 record in 2007-2008 that saw the Dukes implode after a hot 7-1 start that included a win over NCAA Tournament Cinderella Siena in their season-opener.

What attracted Brady to JMU was the fact that the cupboard isn’t exactly being left bare. Included in the mix of returning players is Abdulai Jalloh, whom Brady recruited to St. Joe’s before leaving to take the head job at Marist.

“When you inherit a program, the greatest attribute is the players that are already here. My goal is to meet with those players, which I’ll do when we disperse here, and immediately hopefully build a bond with them that they recognize that I have some ability to teach them on the floor,” Brady told reporters at an introductory press conference on the floor of the Convocation Center this afternoon.

“I think that if I have a few strengths, that would be one of them. So I think first and foremost to build a bond and a relationship with the players that are here, and to help make those players better, and to plant a seed, quite frankly, that they can take forward into the summer months that when they come back here in late August that they are going to be the very best basketball players that they can be,” Brady said.

“I think this is a day-by-day process. This isn’t going to happen overnight. But I do hope that it happens quickly,” Brady said.

The first item on the Brady Agenda – it begins with the letter D.

“This is a team that has a lot of room for growth defensively,” Brady said of the Dukes, who were 12th in the CAA in scoring defense and field-goal-percentage defense in 2007-2008.

“I came to St.Joes’, actually, a long time ago as a guy who valued being able to get players and teams shots, high-percentage shots, scoring the basketball. But when you play in a league like the MAAC, which we did, like we’re going to do here in the CAA, there’s no way around it, you have to play great defense. And I think my commitment for this particular group will be to become a much better team defensively,” Brady said.

The pressure is definitely on. JMU has not had a winning season in eight years, and this is in a conference in the Colonial that has produced a recent Final Four team (George Mason, 2006) and another in Virginia Commonwealth University that posted a memorable first-round upset of Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

“I think first and foremost we have to have a winning season,” Brady said. “My most immediate goal is to bond with the guys, improve these players, recruit other good players, have a winning season. And I would say this. I’m not going to say that there’s a limit or there’s a ceiling to what we can do at James Madison.”


Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.

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