Mount St. Mary's University athletic director Lynne Robinson has announced the contract extension of men's basketball Head Coach Jamion Christian. The extension takes Christian's contract through the 2018-19 season. In addition, Ben Wilkins has been promoted to Associate Head Coach while Justine Miller has been named Coordinator for Basketball Operations.
In just two seasons, Christian has led Mount St. Mary's back to the top of the Northeast Conference. After taking the Mount to the Northeast Conference title game in his first season, Christian guided Mount St. Mary's to the NEC title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in March.
"We are very pleased to extend our contract with Coach Jamion Christian," said Robinson. "Jamion's positive leadership of the men's basketball program has been tremendous. In addition to the team's outstanding success on the basketball court the past two years, Jamion has maintained a tireless commitment to the welfare and academic success of our student-athletes. This extension demonstrates our shared commitment to keep the basketball program continuing in a positive direction. Under Jamion's leadership, the future of Mount basketball is bright and in good hands!"
Christian led the Mountaineers to an 88-71 victory over Robert Morris in the NEC championship game to seal the Mount's first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2008. Christian's team finished the regular season in fourth place, earning the school's first NEC Tournament home game since 2010. The Mount staged a historic rally in that game, coming back from a 19-point deficit with just over nine minutes left to edge St. Francis Brooklyn, 72-71, in the NEC Quarterfinals. The Mount then downed second-seeded Wagner on the road in the semifinals to earn a spot in the championship game for the second consecutive season.
The Mountaineers faced Albany in the 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round in Dayton, Ohio. The Mount, however, came up short in a 71-64 loss that saw a potential game-tying three-pointer in the final minute rattle in-and-out.
"When arriving back here a little over two years ago, we had the very daunting task of moving our program toward the top of the NEC," said Christian. "Although we have reached the NCAA tournament, we have a lot of work left ahead of us. This extension shows that our University is appreciative of the young people that we are bringing into the school, and that they recognize the hard work that we are doing each day to build a championship culture. I am appreciative of President Thomas Powell, Executive Vice President Dan Soller, and Athletic Director Lynne Robinson, who have supported our program with diligence over this time period. We all recognize that we have made strides in the right direction, and that we are at a pivotal time in the history of college athletics and at Mount St. Mary's. With this extension we look to continue our work to keep Mount St. Mary's as one of the top teams in the NEC each season."
A 2004 graduate of the Mount, Christian was named the 22nd coach in Mount St. Mary's history on March 26, 2012. In his inaugural season, Christian guided the Mountaineers to an 18-14 record and a spot in the NEC Championship game.
Christian's first season definitely provided excitement as the 18 wins were the fourth-most by a Mount team since moving to NCAA Division I in 1988-89 while the team also had a nine-game win streak, the third-longest streak by a Mount team in the Division I era. It was the Mount's first winning season since 2009-10 and the Mountaineers appeared in the NEC Championship game for the first time since 2009.
Christian refers to his team's style of play as Mayhem, which features a pressing defense and an offense reliant on the three-point shot. The Mount has set school records for three-pointers made in each of his first two seasons.
Christian was a finalist for both the Ben Jobe Award and the Joe B. Hall Award in 2013. The Ben Jobe Award is presented annually to the top minority coach in division I men's basketball, while the Joe B. Hall Award goes to the top first-year coach in Division I college basketball.
Wilkins is in his third season at the Mount after spending the previous six seasons as an assistant coach at William and Mary. Wilkins is the Mount's defensive coordinator, while also being responsible for working with the perimeter guards, recruiting, scouting, academics and scheduling.
"From the first day that Ben and I worked together at William and Mary, I always knew that he was an extremely driven and excellent coach," said Christian. "When becoming the head coach here at Mount St. Mary's, I wanted to have people working with me who had a shared vision for helping our athletes and program move forward. Ben Wilkins has been nothing short of exceptional for our program over the past two seasons. His work at William and Mary speaks for itself, being a part of recruiting or coaching classes that made the CAA championship game three times in the past seven seasons. He has brought that winning pedigree and work ethic to our program, and I am excited that we have given him the title of Associate Head Coach. Simply it is well deserved."
The Mount's defense has been ranked in the top four in the Northeast Conference in defensive efficiency in each of the past two seasons. One area the Mount has excelled on the defensive end is limiting the three-point basket. The Mount has been ranked in the top three in the nation the past two years in three-point field goals allowed.
Wilkins has also been responsible for the Mount's "Separation Seminar", the team's leadership seminars that focus on team building, goal setting and community service. The men's basketball team has won the Mount Cup in each of the past two years. The Mount Cup is rewarded to the Mount team that excels in academics, athletics and community service.
"I want to thank Coach Christian and Athletic Director Lynne Robinson for the recognition and continued opportunity to be part of a special place like the Mount," said Wilkins. "Having won two Mount Cups and an NEC Championship last season, I am excited about the type of program we are building both on and off the court, and look forward to an even brighter future. It's a great time to be a part of the Mount St. Mary's basketball family."
Miller will serve as the Mount's Coordinator of Basketball Operations. A 2013 graduate of the Mount, Miller served as a team manager from 2010-13.
A graduate assistant at the Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business at the Mount last year, Miller was the Mount's head manager her final two seasons with the program. Her duties included overseeing all of the team's managers, setting up and cleaning up after practice, packing for away games and organizing and ordering food for postgame meals.
Miller served as the head coach of the seventh and eighth grade girls basketball team at Biglerville Junior High last year. She was also an assistant track and field coach for Biglerville High School's varsity team in 2013-14.
A graduate of the Mount's Sport Management program, Miller is pursuing a master's degree in business administration at the Mount.
"Justine has been a huge part of our program for more than three seasons now," said Christian. "Her work as a student manager separated her from the rest, and her passion for helping us build the Mount into an elite program has never waived. She is as exceptional of a person that I have had the opportunity to work with over my ten plus years of coaching. I am thrilled to have her join the staff."