After going completely outside the program to hire a men's basketball coach two years ago only to see the team fall into disarray, Mount St. Mary's announced the hiring of former player Jamion Christian on Monday.
Christian, a 2004 MSM graduate, becomes the 21st head coach in the history of the program.
"I am both thrilled and humbled to be returning to the Mount," Christian said in a statement released by the Mount. "I look forward to bringing energy and enthusiasm back to our historic program one passionate day at a time."
Christian, 29, was an assistant coach under Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth this season, helping guide the Rams to the Colonial Athletic Association title and the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Christian, who will be formally introduced today at a news converence on campus, reportedly had been in the running for the job in 2010, when the Mount selected Robert Burke.
Christian takes over a team that went 19-42 over the past two seasons, which were made more difficult by several players leaving the program, one being kicked off the team, and Burke, himself, being placed on administrative leave in February with four games remaining, paving the way for his resignation after the season.
"We are very pleased Jamion is coming home to lead our men's basketball program," president Thomas H. Powell said in the statement. "Coach Christian comes to us with tremendous experience, and as a graduate of the Mount, he brings a distinct passion to our campus. We are very confident he will be successful in guiding our program and our student-athletes."
The "passion" cited by Powell and "enthusiasm" mentioned by Christian would be in contrast to his stoic predecessor. Burke, an assistant for two decades before getting the Mount job, was unable to keep the program going forward after previous coach Milan Brown guided the team to three consecutive winning seasons and the first NCAA tournament win in program history before leaving to take over at Holy Cross.
Christian was recruited to Emmitsburg out of New Kent, Va., by coach Jim Phelan, who won 830 games at the Mount. He finished his career playing under Brown.
"Jamion is one of the young and talented coaches in our business," Brown said in a statement. "I have always liked Jamion's leadership qualities, basketball IQ and his passion for the game. He is going to bring a ton of competitive energy to recruiting, practices and game preparation. I am extremely proud of Jamion and can't wait to see him walking the sidelines at the Mount."
Christian was a three-year captain at the Mount, scoring 581 points in 90 career games and 56 starts. He led the Mount in scoring at 11.3 points per game in 2001-02 and averaged 8.2 the following season.
After graduating, Christian spent two seasons as director of basketball operations at Bucknell, two seasons as an assistant at Emory & Henry, and three seasons at William & Mary before getting the job at VCU following the Rams' run to the 2011 Final Four under Smart.
"I think he's got a great perspective on the game, and it's different, much different than anyone else on our staff because of his background and who he's worked for," Smart said in a statement.
It was unclear Monday whether any of Burke's assistants would be retained. Matt Henry coached the team to a 2-2 record during Burke's administrative leave and had been under consideration for the job eventually given to Christian.
"Jamion's successful Division I playing and coaching experience perfectly positions him to guide our program," MSM athletic director Lynn Robinson said. "We are thrilled that Jamion has returned to the Mount and we look forward to his leadership in the years to come."