Home JMU hires Morehead State hoops coach Preston Spradlin, who may be facing a total rebuild

JMU hires Morehead State hoops coach Preston Spradlin, who may be facing a total rebuild

Chris Graham
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JMU Athletics Director Jeff Bourne moved quickly to replace Mark Byington, announcing on Friday that he has hired Morehead State coach Preston Spradlin to head up the men’s basketball program.

Byington left for Vanderbilt on Tuesday, after leading JMU to a school-record 32 wins and an NCAA Tournament upset of Wisconsin this season.

Spradlin, 37, led Morehead State to two NCAA Tournament appearances, including in 2024, when his program went 26-9 and qualified for the Big Dance as the Ohio Valley champ.

“Preston stood out at the top of our list as we researched candidates based upon the resume that he’s built at a very young age as a head coach,” Bourne said in a statement on the hire. “Once we met with him, it was even more evident that he’s the total package in a head coach. The results speak for themselves, but beyond the results we found a genuine and authentic coach and teacher who cares about his student-athletes, about his institution and the community. Given our recent success at James Madison, our facility, our resources and the enthusiasm of our fanbase, we believe Preston is the right coach to build something truly special in Harrisonburg.”

Spradlin is an alum of Alice Lloyd College, an NAIA school, and started his coaching career as a grad assistant on John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky, where he worked from 2009-2011.

His teams at Morehead State were 140-109 in his eight seasons at the school.

The win-loss record is deceptive. His last four teams each won 20+ games, and qualified for the postseason in three of those four years.

“My family and I are extremely excited for the opportunity to lead the JMU program and take over during a monumental time for the University!” Spradlin said in a statement released by the school. “Throughout this process, it was of the utmost importance that we not only found a great basketball program, but also a caring community that we can embrace and continue to raise our family. We are looking forward to connecting with the many supporters of JMU Athletics and partnering together to compete for future championships! Go Dukes!”

In terms of style of play, Spradlin has favored a slower pace – his team averaged 63.9 possessions per game in 2023-2024, ranking 337th among the 362 teams in D1 in tempo, according to KenPom.

That would be a departure from the pace that Byington, who was 82-36 in his four seasons at JMU, used to return the program to prominence as a mid-major.

JMU, in 2023-2024, averaged 69.7 possessions per game, ranking 70th nationally, per KenPom.

The first order of business for Spradlin will be restocking the roster, which was already set to lose grad seniors TJ Bickerstaff (13.3 ppg, 8.4 rebs/g, 61.9% FG), Noah Freidel (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rebs/g, 43.2% FG, 38.4% 3FG), Julien Wooden (9.9 ppg, 51.4% FG, 40.2% 3FG) and Michael Green (7.3 ppg, 3.3 assists/g, 38.6% FG, 36.5% 3FG).

In the wake of the departure of Byington, several players have entered the transfer portal, most notably the team’s leading scorer, 6’6” COVID-redshirt junior Terrence Edwards (17.2 ppg, 4.4 rebs/g, 3.4 assists/g, 42.7% FG, 34.3% 3FG), and the three rotation guys who got minutes off the bench from this year’s team – 6’8” freshman Jaylen Carey (7.0 ppg, 4.3 rebs/g, 66.9% FG), 6’6” junior Raekwon Horton (6.9 ppg, 4.3 rebs/g, 54.2% FG, 33.8% 3FG) and 6’2” sophomore Xavier Brown (6.3 ppg, 2.6 rebs/g, 2.0 assists/g, 34.4% FG, 33.9% 3FG).

If Spradlin can’t re-recruit any of those kids to come back, it will be a total rebuild for him in Year 1.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].