JMU’s Mark Byington leaves JMU for Head Coach Position with Vanderbilt Commodores

By Reggie Gatlin-Holt




Mark Byington wants to turn Vandy around next (courtesy JMU Athletics)

HARRISONBURG, Va. – After guiding James Madison to its best men’s basketball record in program history with 32 wins and advancing to the Second Round of the NCAA Championship, Mark Byington has departed as head coach to accept the same position at Vanderbilt, according to Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne.

“We hired Mark Byington in 2020 with the hope of finding the right fit for JMU and reinvigorating and revitalizing our men’s basketball program,” Bourne said. “Without a doubt, he accomplished that with flying colors, redefining the trajectory of JMU men’s basketball, matching the culture of our university and positioning James Madison to be a mainstay on the national scene. I am grateful to Mark for his dedication to our institution and wish him well on his next move. As for JMU, we have a top-50 program with one of the best arenas in the country and a bright future. I’m extremely optimistic for what lies ahead for JMU men’s basketball.”

“To JMU fans, alumni and students, when I took the head coach job four years ago, I knew we could do great things together. Although there were incredible challenges such as CoVID, changing conferences and evolution of changes in college athletics, we were able to take this program to incredible heights. Your support and enthusiasm lifted this program to unimaginable success. I will miss the great people and campus community tremendously, but I will always have special memories of the way I was treated, welcomed and supported while I was the coach.  JMU Athletics had so much success and national attention this year, and I have no doubt it will continue its elevation. Most of all I want to thank my players.  I love you all and it was a privilege to be your coach. Go Dukes!!!!”

Byington went 82-36 in four seasons at JMU, inheriting a program that won nine games in the year prior to his arrival and incrementally improving in each season leading up to a breakthrough 2023-24 campaign. His first two seasons were full of adversity, guiding the Dukes to a first-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association (13-7) while navigating CoVID-19 starts and stops. In year two, JMU went 15-14 while learning just prior to the season that it would be ineligible for the CAA Tournament due to exiting for the Sun Belt Conference.

In 2022-23 in his first season back in the Sun Belt, where Byington had guided Georgia Southern to a 131-97 record in seven seasons prior to leaving for JMU, the Dukes went 22-11 (12-6 SBC) with a top-four finish in the league and a top-100 spot in the NCAA NET rankings. The win total was the second best in program history behind the 24 in 1981-82 and the semifinal appearance in the Sun Belt Championship was JMU’s first semifinal appearance in a league tournament since winning the CAA in 2013.

Prior to the NCAA Second Round loss to Duke, James Madison shared college basketball’s best winning percentage and most wins with top overall seed UConn and owned the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games. JMU finished 32-4 to smash the program’s wins record of 24 and captured its first Sun Belt Championship after winning three games in Pensacola as the No. 2 seed.

The Dukes opened the season with a win at No. 4 Michigan State and went undefeated in non-conference play at 13-0, earning the program’s first AP Top 25 ranking and climbing to as high as No. 18 in the national poll. Terrence Edwards Jr. was named Sun Belt Player of the Year and TJ Bickerstaff Newcomer of the Year, while Noah Friedel was Most Outstanding Player of the SBC Championship.

JMU has engaged Collegiate Sports Associates as search consultant and has commenced a national search for a new men’s basketball head coach.