Austin Peay State University has officially introduced Nate James as its new head men’s basketball coach.
“I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity,” James said. “Very honored and proud to be the 13th head coach at Austin Peay State University. I’m just really looking forward to getting with my guys and doing something special here that everyone can be proud of, and work with these young men and help them tap into the potential that they have. Have a little fun, bring the community together and see what we can do to get back to the mountaintop.”
James has been part of the Duke Blue Devils’ basketball staff since 2008, including the associate head coach title since 2017 under the legendary Mike Krzyzewski.
James also played under Krzyzewski, winning one national championship as a player and two as a coach. He helped lead multiple ACC and NBA stars from the sideline, including Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
“I am excited to welcome Nate, Bobbi, Nate III and Dash to Austin Peay and introduce them to the Clarksville community,” said Austin Peay Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison. “Nate is a man of incredible integrity who has been a huge part of one of college basketball’s most successful programs for much of the last two decades. He is committed to the student-athlete experience and the principles of the ‘Total Gov Concept.’ His depth of experience, his ability to recruit and retain outstanding young men, and his desire to help them excel on and off the court will make him a huge asset to our university and our department. Simply put, Nate James is a champion and a leader. I am proud to say he is the head coach of the Austin Peay Men’s Basketball team.”
The university’s official announcement came just five days after the resignation of previous head coach Matt Figger, who left the position for the same role at University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
After multiple notable graduations and transfers in Terry Taylor, Jordyn Adams and Reginald Gee, James will have plenty of room to construct his ideal roster through recruiting and the transfer portal.
“I want to continue to analyze and study the roster,” James said. “Obviously when you lose a player like Terry where he was the player of year, he’s done some amazing things in this conference, you have to bring in maybe a few guys to make up the impact that he had. Ultimately, I need to learn these guys, find out what they can and can’t do. Luckily I have a little bit of time before semester is over to do a little individual work and things of that nature to learn them a little bit more in-person.
“My message to them was ‘look, you have a clean slate. I’m not going to have any preconceived notions on who you are as a player. You just have to put the work in and show what you can do as a player and see where that goes.’ Ultimately, every team, you’ve got to have multiple ball handlers. Someone who can really run a team at a high level. You need shooters. For guys who watched the tournament and watching that championship, you need to put the ball in the hole. You need athleticism. These are basic building blocks of any program that expects to win at a high level. After I do a thorough analysis of the roster, then I’ll bring in the best players that I need to fill it out right.”
James’ father was a Marine, and his experience growing up in a military household has helped shape his personality and teaching style.
“It’s a lot of the same things where you hold one another accountable, you’re disciplined, you’re on time, you’re ready, you’re prepared, you don’t make any excuses,” he said. “You do everything in your power to put yourself in a position to be successful… All my life I’ve been very blessed with men that lived a certain way and, because of that, they helped me, they molded me to become that man that I am, and hopefully I can take that and help these young men reach their fullest potentials.”
The Governors are expected to take on a defensive identity under James while also scheduling difficult non-conference opponents. James noted that he looks to use his connections to craft their non-conference schedules. APSU typically played a handful of SEC teams under Figger, who was an assistant coach at South Carolina before arriving in Clarksville, so Govs fans can hope to see the team face some ACC opponents in the coming years, though James has not gotten to that point yet.