Wind: 3 m/h
A long-awaited appearance by Mark Byington before the Roanoke Valley Sports Club lived up to all expectations at the Salem Civic Center earlier this week.
In his second season as the James Madison men's basketball coach, Byington directed the Dukes to a 13-7 finish, including an 8-2 record in the Colonial Athletic Association, after which he was named CAA coach of the year.
The original agreement was for Byington to speak to the sports club last year, but a COVID-19 breakout put that meeting on hold. In the end, it probably was better to have him speak in 2021, when he was a finalist for mid-major national coach of the year.
Byington spoke to a crowd Monday night that included two honorees designated as local "legends," Paul Bernard and Charlie Morgan. Bernard coached basketball at William Byrd High School and Charlie Morgan at Salem.
Many of Byington's former coaches and players were there, including Richard Morgan, one of the most decorated players to come through the valley. Morgan and his brother Charlie sat with the Byington family.
It was not the first time Byington had spoken to the sports club. As a young graduate assistant at UVa, he was dispatched to Salem by then-head coach Pete Gillen. When he got to the sports club, he learned that he would be sharing the podium with legendary Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer.
"It was the first time I'd ever spoken to a group like this," Byington said Monday. "I wasn't the headline speaker and the other guy had something else to do. He had a prior engagement but he said he could speak quickly at the beginning and then I would go after him.
"This guy Beamer goes up and he was an incredible speaker, genuine as could be. He had the room rolling and laughing with great stories and then he waves his hand and says, 'I've got to go out.'
"One person asked, 'Can we get a picture with you before you leave?' He said, 'I'll go do it out in the hallway.' I'm still sitting at the head table and this guy Beamer walks out there and I see [diners] walkj out one by one..
"Next thing I know, it was pretty much empty. I even saw my dad looking at my mom and saying, 'I'm going out and having my picture taken with this Beamer guy.' "
• • • Byington's time in Charlottesville ended before Tony Bennett's arrival as head coach but he has maintained a relationship with Gillen, who just finished his 16th year of television commentary and still lives in Charlottesville.
"Mark did a great job for us for a year or two as a grad assistant," Gillen said. "He was very sharp and he had an excellent feel for the game. I think he will do a great job at JMU."
Byington said it was "ironic" that he ended up at James Madison. His brother and sister-in-law went to JMU and Mark had hoped that then-JMU coach Lefty Driesell would recruit him. There was no offer and Byington ended up at UNC-Wilmington, where he was a three-year starter and scored more than 1,000 points.
"I made it my mission and every time I played against JMU, I was going to prove to [Driesell] that he should have recruited me," Byington said. "It was important for me to come back not only to Virginia but to a place where I could be extremely successful."
Former Virginia Tech football standout Orion Martin is the new football coach at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.
Martin, a graduate of George Washington High School in Danville, was a postgrad football player at Hargrave Military Academy before heading to Tech, where he was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2008 after playing on ACC championship teams in 2006 and 2007.
Martin, who attended NFLtraining camps with Miami and Detroit previously was an assistant at St. Albans School under Brian Schnell, who recently retired as the St. Albans head coach.
St. Albans has had more of a connection with Virginia, whose Charles Snowden was a fixture as an outside linebacker and pass rusher for the past four years. Also former Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore served as an assistant on St. Albans teams.
Moore Named To New Position At UVa
Shawn Moore, who was the ACC player of the year and a 1990 Heisman Trophy following, recently accepted position with the UVa athletic department as an associate director of development for the athletic department, a new office that he will share with longtime UVa football administrator Gerry Capone.