E.A. Sports Today

Bynum gets his break

Oxford assistant approved for his first head coaching job at Mae Jemison

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jeremy Bynum has been part of a lot of tryouts before, but the one he was part of Saturday felt different than any of those that had gone before.

This was the first one he was conducting as a head coach.

Bynum, the former Oxford player and assistant coach, was approved Thursday night as the new head basketball coach at Mae Jemison and he was getting his first look at his personnel.

The Huntsville school system dipped into Calhoun County again for the Jags’ head coach as the 32-year-old succeeds former Sacred Heart head coach Ralph Graves, who stepped back from high school coaching after last season.

“I didn’t sleep Friday night (in Huntsville),” Bynum said. “I was so excited to get there to see what it was going to be like, the culture and all that. I was just ready to get to work.”

Oxford head coach Joel VanMeter told East Alabama Sports Today back in January Bynum has been ready for a long time.

Bynum was the closest thing Van Meter had to an associate head coach without the formal title. He already had been in charge of the players’ skill development and, this year, Van Meter gave him the responsibility of learning and installing the new five-out offense that carried the Yellow Jackets to a third straight Calhoun County Tournament title.

Bynum considered it the ultimate compliment that his mentor put the offense in his hands. He credits VanMeter’s support and counsel for the coaching success he’d had in the past and any he will have in the future.

Bynum said there was a “good turnout” for the tryout. He “somewhat” picked the team from the exercise, but maintained the rosters “aren’t completely set,” espousing the philosophy that players earn their spots every day.

“The biggest difference (between tryouts of the past) was the unknown,” he said. “Mae Jemison has such a great tradition in basketball. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to see and as far as the coaching side I had to evaluate everyone in the gym and be efficient with it. I had to be efficient with my time and give these kids a chance to show what they can really do.”

He called getting the Jemison job as his first head coaching assignment “just a blessing from God.” He had some opportunities earlier in his career and had a few school reach out since the end of this past season, but he navigated the landscape carefully.

“I think it’s one of those opportunities I was just waiting for,” he said. “I wasn’t desperate to leave Oxford, so I wasn’t going to take any job. This was one I just couldn’t turn down.”

Now that he’s got it, what’s he going to do with it? He says his coaching won’t change; he’s just moving up one seat on the bench.

“The most exciting part for me is the pressure,” he said. “All my life, even as a player, I strive when my back is against the wall. That’s not saying it’s against the wall now, but when I had to be good, that’s when I was at my best.

“Being in a situation people thought maybe I wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t going to be able to get it done, most of the time I end up coming out on top. The expectation (at Mae Jemison) is to win and I feel like when I know that, that’s what’s going to happen.”

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