Joining Head Coach Mike Jones is a staff of three assistant coaches, all of whom were hired only a short time after Jones was named head coach back in June. The three assistants bring a mix of experience, youth, energy and charisma to a program that was lacking those exact qualities just a year ago when the team went 5-24 on the season.
The oldest assistant coach on the staff is also a man that longtime Highlander fans will recognize quickly. Chris Hawkins is a 1992 graduate of Radford University, and played as a member of the RU Men’s Basketball team from 1989 until his graduation.
Affectionately nicknamed “Hawk” during his playing days, Hawkins has returned to his alma mater to coach under Jones. This will be Hawkins’ second stint as an assistant for RU basketball, as he previously served as an assistant from 1997-2000.
“It’s really exciting to be back. You have to put in a certain amount of work to have success both on and off the court, and one of the things we’re trying to do is bring in the right type of players,” Hawkins said. “We want guys who have passion and a love for the game, and high character players that will help us succeed.”
The youngest member of the assistant coaching staff is enjoying his second stint in Division I basketball, and comes to Radford at just 29 years old. J.D. Byers is a 2005 graduate of Lebanon Valley College, and spent three years as an assistant at Randolph-Macon College. In Byers’ last season with R-MC, the Yellow Jackets advanced all the way to the Division III NCAA Final Four and enjoyed a regular season record of 26-7. Now in his first year at RU, Byers looks to provide a fresh face and a burst of energy into the program.
“It’s been a whirlwind trying to get everything together before the season, but it’s been great to see the guys start to come together and for our chemistry to start to build as we’re getting our new system and building our culture,” Byers said. “You come to work refreshed every day because you know that it’s just another day we can use to get better.”
The last member of the new staff is a man who served with Mike Jones as a fellow assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth University under Head Coach Shaka Smart during the Rams’ magical Final Four run during the 2010 season. Kyle Getter joins the RU coaching staff after previous stops at VCU and Liberty University, where he entered the Division I level as an assistant coach just before the start of the 2008 season.
“It’s been encouraging to see guys improve from day to day here in the offseason. To see our guys continue to learn a whole different system has been pretty enjoyable, especially with the amount of work everyone has put in,” Getter said. “Every situation is what you make of it: if you spend too much time dwelling on the negative, you’re wasting that much time that you could be spending on getting better.”
The three coaches have come together under Jones to turn around a program that, up until the 2010 season, had been considered one of the best in the Big South Conference. A disastrous 2010 campaign, though, derailed the program and eventually cost former Head Coach Brad Greenberg his job amid allegations of ethics violations. The new staff, in conjunction with Head Coach Jones, is promoting an atmosphere built around hard work and high character players.
“I think that from a numbers standpoint, we’re going to have to play unselfishly and play as a team,” Getter said. “I think the future is bright, but success really starts with leadership. Right now, everyone’s in the same boat. We just have to all start paddling at the same time in the same direction.”
The Highlanders will play their first game of the season on Nov. 11 against Delaware University in a contest scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.