Two men’s basketball graduate assistants are both coming from different parts of the country and bring different experiences. Now, they can bring that experience as Dukes.
Before Jordan Talley joined the Dukes, he was an assistant basketball coach for Tallahassee Community College, where he helped lead the team to the No. 1 seed at 27-6 in the Division I Panhandle Conference last season.
“I believe the Panhandle Conference that I was in was the best conference in basketball, and we won the conference championship,” Talley said. “I feel like I kinda completed everything I wanted to complete at [the] JUCO level.”
Talley said he knew some players at Georgia Southern who were coached under JMU head coach Mark Byington and assistant coach Jon Cremins and said these players spoke highly of them.
“I just thought it was going to be an incredible opportunity for me to be able to come here and just kinda be a part of the program and help in any possible way I can,” Talley said.
Talley said that he has much respect for Byington and what he did at Georgia Southern. The word he used to describe Byington’s coaching was “brilliant.”
“Just being around him every day and learning from him is just really a blessing,” Talley said.
Talley noted he wants to be a service to people and be around a group of teammates that want to get better.
“I can bring my energy, my effort, my will to just help guys get better and making our assistant coaches' lives easier and our director of basketball operations’ lives easier,” Talley said. “Doing the little things so they don’t have to worry about it, and they can just focus on the larger picture and us winning games.”
Byington said to JMU Athletics that Talley's an extremely experienced graduate assistant and will help the team in many areas.
“[Talley] has great energy and is a tremendous communicator,” Byington said. “He’s going to be a full-time coach at the Division I level very soon.”
Before joining the Dukes, Patrick Bittle was the head manager of Illinois’ men’s basketball program during his senior year. He said he definitely wants to explore coaching and start it as a career path. He also said with the pandemic going on, it’s not a great time to start a job in athletics.
“It’s kind of a weird situation,” Bittle said. “Our old video coordinator at Illinois knew Coach Cremins and kind of connected me there because they were looking for [graduate assistants]. It was a pretty fast-moving process. I talked to Coach Cremins and Keith Chesley, the director of basketball operations, one Friday and then had an interview with Coach Byington on Monday, and then Coach Byington called me the next day and said I got the job.”
Bittle said that the JMU men’s basketball team has many new members and key returners. He also mentioned that the staff has been incredible.
“They had some struggles last year, but they’re putting those behind them and just working to get a little better every single day,” Bittle said. “[The staff are] all really good people. [They] work hard, work well together [and are] really excited to get going.”
Bittle said he’s seen how a high major level basketball program runs at Illinois under former head coach John Gross and current head coach Brad Underwood. He also worked with video operations at Illinois.
“I’m going to bring new ideas to the table, and I’m also in charge of video operations, so being able to help with that and scouting reports,” Bittle said. “With being a manager, you’re going to have a lot of different tasks and hit a lot of different things. So being able to be well-rounded and just be able to help out with any different situation you might see on a daily basis.”
Byington said to JMU Athletics that Bittle is starting out his coaching profession but that he gained great experience at Illinois.
“[Bittle] is very talented as a video coordinator and will help us in that area while gaining on-the-court experience with our players,” Byington said. “He has a great work ethic and wisdom to pick things up very quickly.”
The NCAA Division I Council says, as of now, that basketball will be played starting Nov. 25. As that date approaches, Talley and Bittle’s debut as graduate assistants for the Dukes is coming soon.
Contact Andrew Oliveros at email@example.com. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.