Key Takeaways from Preston Spradlin’s Introductory Press Conference at JMU

Photo via Morehead State

By Daniel Merriman

JMU Men’s Basketball is coming off an all-time season setting a program record with 32 wins. After James Madison’s tournament loss to Duke, head coach Mark Byington was hired by Vanderbilt University to the same role. The Dukes hired Preston Spradlin on March 29 from Morehead State just four days after Byington left.  

Spradlin said in his introductory press conference “I was so unbelievably impressed with Mark’s team all year. They did a masterful job getting ready for the NCAA tournament.”

While on vacation in Naples, Florida Spradlin took some time to be formally introduced as the Duke’s head coach via a Zoom press conference. 

Spradlin was acutely aware of the JMU NCAA tournament win against Wisconsin and wants to build on this momentum. 

These are my main takeaways from Spradlin’s first appearance as the Dukes’ head coach. 

Deciding on JMU and Harrisonburg  

Spradlin had to make a tough decision when deliberating whether or not he should move from his home state of Kentucky. He was a graduate assistant under Coach John Calipari at Kentucky for five years and was a coach at Morehead State for a decade. He stated that changing where his family will live was the most difficult decision he had ever made.

A major factor in Preston’s choice to come to JMU was accepting advice he had given to athletes for years.

“The same advice that we’ve built our program with and given to young players and their families is the same advice I gave myself when deciding that this was the right time and right place to move to,” Spradlin said. 

He applied the statement “go where you are wanted” to his own recruitment when he became involved in the coaching carousel of collegiate basketball. Jeff Bourne wanted Coach P, and the JMU Athletic Director got his man.

Spradlin acknowledged that JMU’s recent basketball success is a hard act to follow. He embraces the challenge that comes with high expectations. He stated that he and his squad want all the pressure. His fierce mentality shined when he said that the competitor in him was excited about the challenge. The monetary resources, excitement surrounding the program, and momentum of JMU are all on his side.

Building a Roster has Begun 

Spradlin has already been able to re-recruit one of JMU’s starters that entered the transfer portal. 

Xavier Brown, the rising junior starting point guard, will remain in Harrisonburg for another season. Spradlin said that when he started his current vacation to Naples, Florida, Brown Facetimed while on the way to the JMU Compliance Office stating his intention to return to the Valley (even though he never quite left). 

Spradlin’s staff is already in Harrisonburg attempting to retain all the Dukes who are currently in the portal. To follow JMU’s basketball transfers here is our JMU MBB Transfer Tracker.

Spradlin referenced that the key to getting players into his program is the personal connections he and his staff plan to make. A family environment is a large emphasis for Spradlin as he believes that good people help make great players. This trait is a hallmark of Jeff Bourne’s recent hiring track record.

With roster turnover so prevalent across the college basketball landscape, especially the mid majors, it was key for Bourne & Co. to target a coach that has experience handling that. Spradlin has excelled at identifying talent from lower levels of college basketball during his time at Morehead State. 

Spradlin has several remarks about his playstyle that he wants to bring to the Dukes. An excellent defense is non-negotiable. An efficient offense that is malleable to his personnel is also a trademark of a Coach P system.

Scheduling Will Be Emphasized 

Finally, Spradlin broke down his philosophy towards scheduling. JMU has incurred issues getting high major games on their calendar for years. Last year, Spradlin’s Morehead State program played Alabama, Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State in the regular season and Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

“We were just shy of really competing for that Big 10 South Division Title. [At Morehead State] we had four Big 10 teams on our schedule,” Spradlin jokingly remarked. 

He plans to continue that level of schedule rigor at JMU. However, scheduling has been difficult at successful mid-majors like JMU because Power 6 teams have shied away from the potential lower quadrant loss.

Bourne’s Legacy 

Over the last nine months, Bourne has seen just about everything. Two major coaching hires, several top-25 appearances, and postseason success. 

He was honest when answering how this year has been for him. It wasn’t the retirement year he was expecting. However, he is as bullish as ever on JMU athletics as a whole.

It has been a long but very validating year for Bourne as he plans to retire this spring. This hire is hopefully yet another shining trophy in his legacy.

Bourne finished the press conference with a remarkable analogy talking about his time at JMU.

“To me [this year] is the exclamation mark on the end of the paragraph.”

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