BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech head men’s basketball coach James Johnson has announced the hiring of Kurt Kanaskie, Mark Byington and Ramon Williams as assistant coaches in the program.
“These three coaches will bring a lot of things to the table,” Johnson said. “They have experience, youth, and energy. They are all very good coaches and all have been a part of some very good programs that have advanced to post-season play and competed in the NCAA Tournament. They are experienced recruiting up and down the Eastern Seaboard. We will be able to cover from New Jersey, all the way down to Florida, as well as some Midwest connections. We are excited to get going.”
Kurt Kanaskie comes to Virginia Tech after spending one season at Navy as associate head coach and eight seasons at Penn State, including two years as associate head coach. He was on the staff at Penn State with Johnson from 2003-2005. While at Penn State, Kanaskie helped the Nittany Lions to a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, a 2009 NIT Championship and a berth in the 2007 NIT.
“We are very excited with the hiring of Kurt Kanaskie,” Johnson said. “He is a very experienced and knowledgable basketball coach. He is outstanding on the court, in recruiting and has a great relationship with players.”
Prior to Penn State, Kanaskie served as the head coach at Drake for seven seasons (1997-03). Before Drake, he was one of the most successful Division II head coaches in Pennsylvania, as he was the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for eight seasons. In the 1994-95 season, IUP grabbed its first national ranking in school history (No. 5), earned an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time ever and advanced to the Elite Eight. A year later, IUP earned a No. 1 national ranking and advanced to the national semifinals. Kanaskie was twice named PSAC Coach of the Year, earned NABC District Coach of the Year honors twice and was twice named the Basketball Times National Coach of the Year.
Before IUP, Kanaskie served as the head coach at Lock Haven University for three years (1986-88). His LHU team reached the NCAA Tournament a year later and earned the school’s first-ever national ranking. He was named PSAC Coach of the Year twice at LHU, giving him a total of four PSAC coaching awards.
The Mechanicsburg, Pa., native began his coaching career as an assistant coach at South Carolina for five seasons. Kanaskie was an All-State basketball player at Cumberland Valley High School and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from La Salle University in 1980 and a Master of Business Administration from South Carolina in 1985. While at La Salle, he earned All-Big Five and All-East Coast Conference honors, was an academic All-American, and left as the school’s ninth all-time leading scorer. He was drafted by the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Mark Byington comes to Virginia Tech from the College of Charleston. During his nine seasons in Charleston, Byington spent six seasons as Bobby Cremins’ top assistant and was the interim head coach the final month of the 2011-12 season. He was on the same Cougar staff with Johnson during the 2002-03 season.
“Mark Byington is a young, energetic and enthusiastic coach and I’m thrilled to have him join our staff,” Johnson said. “He is a local guy from Salem, Va., and knows the ACC area. He has a lot of contacts in this area of the country and is an outstanding recruiter.”
Byington was an assistant coach at Hargrave Military Academy in 2001-02. He served as the director of basketball operations at the University of Virginia during the 2004-05 season and was a graduate student manager at UVa for two seasons before that.
A 1998 graduate of UNC Wilmington, Byington earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and was a three-year starter on the men’s basketball team earning second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association and All-CAA Defensive Team honors his senior year. A two-time CAA All-Academic selection, Byington scored more than 1,000 points during his career. He earned a master’s degree in sports psychology from UVa in December of 2003.
Byington was a high school basketball standout at Salem High School. He was named Player of the Year in the state of Virginia as a high school senior, leading Salem to the state championship. He also earned honorable mention All-America recognition and was a two time first-team All-State selection. Following his senior season, he was chosen Most Valuable Player of the Virginia High School League All-Star Game.
Ramon Williams, a native of Roanoke, Va., joins the staff after serving three seasons at Ohio University. During his three seasons at Ohio, the Bobcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2012. In 2012, Ohio advanced to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed with victories over No. 4 seed Michigan and No. 12 seed South Florida.
“We are excited about having Ramon Williams join our staff,” Johnson said. “He is a young man who has Virginia ties and Virginia roots. He was an extremely good player at VMI and has coached with some outstanding coaches in some very good programs. He has coached at the highest level while at DePaul and did a great job with John Groce at Ohio, as they made a run to the Sweet 16. He was an integral part of recruiting those players and with the on-the-court coaching.”
Williams came to Ohio after a four-year stint at DePaul, where he helped guide the Blue Demons through the rugged BIG EAST Conference, widely regarded as the nation’s top league. In Williams’ second year on staff, DePaul posted nine BIG EAST wins and defeated three ranked teams en route to making its deepest postseason run in 17 years, a trip to the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Before DePaul, Williams spent three years as an assistant at Richmond under Jerry Wainwright. The Spiders reached the postseason in two of Williams’ three seasons on staff, qualifying for the NIT in 2003 and capturing the program’s second-ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2004.
A 1990 graduate of VMI with a degree in economics, Williams was a member of the men’s basketball staff at his alma mater for nine years as both an assistant and associate head coach before heading to Richmond. Williams was a two-time All-Southern Conference and SoCon All-Tournament Team selection at VMI, and finished his career as the program’s third-leading scorer with 1,630 points. He continues to hold VMI program records for three-point field goals in a game and single-season three-point field goal percentage.
Williams and his brother, Damon, who formed one of the most prolific scoring duos in NCAA history, were both inducted into the VMI Sports Hall of Fame in September of 2001.
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