CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Mark Byington spent nine years atthe College of Charleston as their interim head coach for 11 games before theCougars hired Doug Wojcik. Now he's the head coach at Georgia Southern.
He returned to the sidelines in the Lowcountry this weekendfor the first time since leaving CofC.
It wasn't the happy homecoming Byington anticipated, takinga 17-point loss to The Citadel, but that's all part of the experience, he says.
"There's been a lot of challenges. And I never run fromchallenges, I embrace them. I took over a program that needs to rebuild. Wewere picked last or second to last, but our players bought in," he said.
There was a bit of irony in his return, too. Across town onthe day he stepped on to The Citadel's home court, the College of Charlestoncelebrated senior day for guys like Willis Hall and Nori Johnson.
"I recruited those guys. I definitely anticipated it. I knewearly they'd be terrific players and have great careers. I'm very proud ofthem," Byington said.
The whole new crop of players in a new place means a newapproach and plan from Byington. He says he doesn't hold any bitterness towardsthe College for not hiring him.
"You have to move on, keep working hard and eventually youget your break, your chance to do what you want to do," he said. "I've learnedthat everything happens for a reason."
And make no mistake, after nine years at the College ofCharleston, that time has been woven into the fabric of what he's building atGeorgia Southern. He even brought along assistant coach Andrew Wilson.
"He understands what I want done, my personality, and hemakes things easier for me," Byington said.
He even still has weekly conversations with former coachBobby Cremins.
"He tells me to be patient. He knows my biggest weakness. Iwant things to happen today, but he tells me to be patient," Byington said.
Byington is not following in Cremins' footsteps, startinghis head coaching career in the SoCon, working for that same success down theroad.
"That's the biggest thing - I want to establish culture. Iwant our guys to do things the right way," he said.
He's just the man to follow when chasing a dream.