Georgia Southern University Director of Athletics Tom Kleinlein announced today that he has named Mark Byington head coach of the Eagle men's basketball program.
No stranger to Georgia Southern, Byington spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Southern Conference rival College of Charleston, including seven as Bobby Cremins' top assistant. He was named interim head coach of the Cougars for the final month of the 2011-12 season after Cremins took a leave of absence and guided the Cougars to a 7-4 mark in their final 11 contests.
"Mark has the energy, the knowledge, the experience and the work ethic to elevate our men's basketball program to where we want it to be, which is competing for conference championships," said Kleinlein. "He rose to the top of a pool of a quality group of candidates as we conducted an exhaustive national search. What we found throughout the process is that Mark is the best fit for Georgia Southern University."
College of Charleston posted an overall record of 194-100 and a 108-51 mark in the SoCon during Byington's time there. The Cougars recorded six 20-win seasons, logged three SoCon South Division regular-season titles, advanced to the league's tournament championship game three times and made two appearances in the NIT. Byington spent the 2012-13 campaign as an assistant under James Johnson at Virginia Tech.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be named the men's basketball coach at Georgia Southern University," said Byington. "I am very excited for the opportunity to move this program forward and compete for championships next year in the Southern Conference and for many years to come in the Sun Belt."
A 1998 graduate of UNC Wilmington, Byington earned his bachelor's degree in physical education and was a three-year starter on the men's basketball team, earning second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association and All-CAA Defensive Team honors his senior year. A two-time CAA All-Academic selection, he scored more than 1,000 points during his career.
Byington began his coaching career as an assistant at Hargrave Military Academy in 2001-02. He served as the director of basketball operations at the University of Virginia during the 2004-05 season and was a graduate student manager at UVa for two seasons before that. He earned a master's degree in sports psychology from UVa in December of 2003.
Byington was a high school basketball standout at Salem High School and was named Player of the Year in the state of Virginia as a senior, leading Salem to the state championship. He also earned honorable mention All-America recognition and was a two time first-team all-state selection. Following his senior season, he was chosen Most Valuable Player of the Virginia High School League All-Star Game. Mark and his wife, Christy, have a son, Chase.
Georgia Southern went 14-19 overall and 7-11 in the SoCon last season. The Eagles won a SoCon Tournament game for the second consecutive year, topping Wofford in the first round before falling to eventual champion Davidson in the quarterfinals.
What they are saying about Byington:
"Mark was an outstanding assistant for me, and I am really happy for him. He's a tireless worker and a great X-and-O man, and he will represent Georgia Southern University in a great manner."
Bobby Cremins - former coach at College of Charleston and Georgia Tech
"I've known Mark since he was an 18-year-old freshman, and he was always a player with a high basketball IQ and a thirst for knowledge. He is a terrific young coach who will aggressively approach the recruiting trail and a very bright X-and-O guy who will have a lot of success at Georgia Southern."
Brad Brownell - Clemson head coach
"Coach B helped me have a great senior year. He really helped me improve my game tremendously and was always there for me even outside of basketball. He helped me become a leader on and off the floor. His office was always open to talk, and I feel he will be a great head coach."
Erick Green – senior guard at Virginia Tech, ACC Player of the Year and nation's leading scorer
"Mark had an incredible college playing career and a significant impact in helping us build the program at UNCW. He was an absolute student of the game and became a coach on the floor. He was the consummate teammate and had an incredible work ethic at that age that becomes a carryover for life. You could tell he was going to have an impact on people's lives. He has earned the right for this opportunity, and he's learned at each stop from a lot of legendary people. He's a special young man and will be an incredible representative for Georgia Southern University."
Jerry Wainwright - Marquette assistant coach
"Mark Byington has been well prepared to be a head coach. What I've found to be his strength is the ability to evaluate at a high level. He possesses an eye for recruiting and has been efficient in not only identifying the players, but the decision makers. Georgia Southern picked a rising star to reset the foundation for its program and take them to the next level in recruiting and the win column!"
Dave Telep - ESPN Sr. College Basketball Recruiting Analyst