Former assistant coach returning to lead Morehead State men’s basketball program

Morehead State has turned to a former assistant coach to guide its men’s basketball program after the departure of Preston Spradlin for the head coaching job at James Madison.

Jonathan Mattox previously spent nine seasons on the Morehead State staff. He was an assistant at Murray State the past two seasons.

“I’m so excited to be back as the head men’s basketball coach at Morehead State!” Mattox said, according to a news release by the school on Friday. “This institution and this community mean a lot to my family and I. My wife, Katie and kids are excited to be back. It feels like coming home.”

Mattox, who played in college at Division II Anderson (S.C.) and finished at NAIA-level Emmanuel (Ga.), started out at Morehead State as a graduate manager in 2013-14 and eventually worked his way up to associate head coach for the 2021-22 season.

“Johnny’s experience and familiarity with MSU and Morehead, Kentucky, will reap great benefits in the continuation of Eagle Basketball’s success on and off the court,” athletics director Kelly Wells said of the 15th head coach in the program’s history. “His transformational leadership style, recruiting expertise, and love for Morehead State will shine in his new role.”

Mattox’s first assistant coaching job was at Emmanuel (Ga.) from 2011-13.

Spradlin left Morehead State for James Madison after the Eagles set a school record for wins in a season during the 2023-24 campaign. The Eagles went 26-9 overall and won both the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles before losing to 3 seed Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In total, Spradlin went 140-109 (56.2%) at Morehead State, which included a run of unprecedented success for the program: No NCAA Division I men’s college basketball program in Kentucky has won as many games as Morehead State has over the last four seasons.

Spradlin had been Morehead State’s head coach since December 2016.

The Eagles have gone 94-40 (70.2%) since the start of the 2020-21 season, with trips to the 2021 and 2024 NCAA tournaments. Additionally, Morehead State won an outright OVC regular season title in the 2022-23 season (the first outright OVC regular season championship for Morehead State in 39 years) and the Eagles won a 2023 NIT game at Clemson.

According to Spradlin’s contract at Morehead State, he was paid $260,000 annually by the school as part of a deal that was reworked in 2023. His buyout at Morehead State was $275,000, which was to be paid to the school within 90 days of his departure.

Morehead State guard Xavier Moon, left, talks with director of basketball operations Jonathan Mattox before a game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 25, 2016.
Morehead State guard Xavier Moon, left, talks with director of basketball operations Jonathan Mattox before a game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 25, 2016.

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