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James Madison head coach Louis Rowe talks to the team during a break in the game.

The Louis Rowe era has officially come to an end. 

On Monday, JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne announced the departure of Louis Rowe, opening the head coaching position for JMU men’s basketball. This comes days after the Dukes’ heartbreaking 63-61 loss to Elon in the 2020 CAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. 

“You won’t find many individuals who love this institution and this basketball program more than Louis Rowe,” Bourne said to JMU Athletics. “He poured his heart and soul into this program, and his student-athletes have represented JMU Athletics well on and off the court and in the classroom. That said, the competitive expectations for this program are high, and a change of direction is necessary in order to meet those goals.”

Rowe finished with a 43-85 record. To assist with the search for a new coach, the school will work with Collegiate Sports Associates. 

Rowe took over the program after former head coach Matt Brady and the school parted ways in 2016. In his first season, Rowe got off to a 1-11 start but earned three consecutive wins once CAA play began. The Dukes didn’t sustain that streak and finished the year 10-23 (7-11 CAA), but they were able to earn a win in the CAA Tournament before falling to Hofstra. The seven victories were the most conference wins Rowe amassed during his time as head coach. 

In 2017-18, Rowe had his first batch of players recruited by him, not Brady. The young Dukes were picked to finish last in the CAA, and they nearly met that mark. They avoided the last place finish and came in ninth with a record of 10-22 (6-12 CAA). JMU bowed out in the first round of the CAA Tournament. 

The following season saw progress with the program but still drew questions about if Rowe was the man for the job. After being picked to finish sixth in the CAA, the Dukes found themselves as the No. 8 seed in the 2019 CAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 14-19 (6-12 CAA) record. 

JMU won its first game of the tournament, downing Towson, 74-73. Following the team’s exit that season, Bourne released a statement supporting Rowe, saying he’ll continue to lead the program. 

In his fourth season — one where it was do or die for Rowe — JMU was tabbed to finish fourth in the conference, even notching three first-place votes. After a 7-4 showing in non-conference play, the season took a turn for the worst. The Dukes went on to win just two games in the CAA, finishing the season losing 15 of their last 16 contests. 

“JMU Athletics has been achieving at a high level across the board when you look at our entire sports portfolio,” Bourne said to JMU Athletics. “It is critical that men’s basketball be part of that success in order for our department to truly thrive … That starts with having the right coach in place as a result of this search.” 

Contact Noah Ziegler at breezesports@gmail.com. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There comes a time where an athlete realizes their true potential. When I realized that I was never going to make a living on the court, I figured I’d make it on the sidelines. I hope to be able to attend and cover the World Cup and NCAA tournament.