MSU’s Spradlin accepts James Madison job

Published 1:40 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fresh off a record season and NCAA championship second-round appearance, James Madison moved quickly to fill its head coaching vacancy, hiring another NCAA qualifying coach in Preston Spradlin to a six-year deal.

Spradlin comes to JMU from Morehead State, where he guided the Eagles to their second NCAA appearance in four seasons in 2023-24. During that stretch, MSU posted 22 or more wins in all four seasons, going 94-40 overall and 58-16 in league games in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The 94 wins represent the best four-year mark in program history and first time hitting 20 wins in four straight seasons for a team that began competition in 1929-30. The Eagles had only achieved consecutive 20-win seasons once previously in program history, and Spradlin posted four of the 11 20-win campaigns all-time in over 90 seasons.

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“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,” JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. “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 was excited to take over the James Madison program.

“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!” he said. “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!”

The Eagles finished top three in the league in each of the last four seasons, including regular season champions in 2022-23 and 2023-24. They earned a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Championship in both 2021 and 2024, falling to No. 3 seeds West Virginia and Illinois, respectively.

Morehead State went 26-9 in 2023-24, posting a top-30 record in the country. The Eagles earned a three-way tie for regular season champions in the OVC, then defeated each of the tied teams in the league tournament to claim the NCAA automatic bid. MSU’s only four losses in non-conference play came to Power Five opponents Purdue, Alabama, Penn State and Indiana as his non-conference strength of schedule ranked 54th nationally. Spradlin’s squad posted by far the best NET rating in the OVC at 106 with the next best mark at 182.

As a team the Eagles ranked top 10 in the country in field goal percentage defense (seventh, 39.3%), scoring defense (ninth, 63.4 points/game) and rebounding margin (sixth, 8.5 rebounds/game). Morehead State was also 15th in scoring margin (11.9 points/game), 18th in three-point percentage defense (30.2%) and posted the 30th best record in the country with a .743 winning percentage.

Spradlin was named Coach of the Year in the OVC in 2020-21 and 2022-23. The latter season saw the Eagles make their first NIT appearance in program history, winning at Clemson in the first round before falling at UAB in the second round. That team went 22-12 overall and 14-4 in league play.

The previous two seasons Spradlin went 23-11 in 2021-22 and 23-8 in 2020-21, which included a 17-3 league record and NCAA trip. He inherited the Eagles program as interim head coach in 2016-17 as one of the youngest head coaches in the country at 29. He proceeded to guide them to a 12-9 mark, including a second-place finish in the OVC East at 10-6. The next season saw a drop-off to 8-21, but he gradually built the program back up over the next two seasons prior to breaking through as the OVC’s top program over the last four years.

Prior to Morehead State, the Pikeville, Ky., native spent five seasons on the staff of John Calipari at Kentucky. He spent two years as a graduate assistant coach (2009-11) followed by three seasons as director of operations (2011-14).

Spradlin and his wife, Misty, have a son, Bentley, and a daughter, Aubrey.