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Jack Castleberry fulfills dream as FDU basketball head coach
Jack Castleberry was once just a Virginia Beach kid joining his dad on work days at Old Dominion basketball games. Now, he’s earned his dream as the new head basketball coach of Fairleigh Dickinson. (Credit: Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Jack Castleberry fulfills dream as FDU basketball head coach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (BVM) – Long before he helped the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights become just the second 16 seed to upset a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, Jack Castleberry was just a kid going with his dad to work. Fortunately for Castleberry, his dad was a basketball play-by-play announcer for Old Dominion University, roughly 20 miles away from his home in Virginia Beach.

While his dad worked to broadcast the Monarchs’ games for the local radio audience, Jack was marveling at the facilities and listening to the coaches in the huddle. Even at that young age, Jack knew his future was going to be one of those coaches someday.

“Obviously it was really cool having a father who worked in the sports world growing up and so I’ve known I wanted to be a college basketball coach since I was 12 years old,” Castleberry told Matthew Hatsfield of Virginia Preps. “I had really great access to the Old Dominion basketball program because my dad was a play-by-play guy for them for 20-some years. Coach [Jeff] Caple when he was there I got to be around the program a ton and I figured out early on this was a pretty cool profession.”

Now, Castleberry gets to take the next step in his very cool profession. On Tuesday, Castleberry was named the new head coach of the Knights following previous head coach Tobin Anderson’s departure. This is the first head coaching position for Castleberry, who joined FDU in May.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be given the opportunity to lead America’s newest Cinderella as the FDU men’s basketball head coach,” Castleberry said in a press release. “I am beyond thankful to Tobin and Jodi for bringing me on board and allowing me to be a part of such an incredible run. I’m grateful to Dr. Avaltroni, Brad and Jason for their confidence in me to serve in this new role and continue to build a special program at FDU. Above all, I want to thank our players and look forward to continuing to support them academically, socially and athletically.”

While this promotion may be his first true head coaching position, Castleberry has an impressive resume in the basketball world, both as a coach and a player. Castleberry’s basketball journey begins as a player where he excelled playing for Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach. Although not recruited heavily, Castleberry bet on himself as he walked on at the Virginia Military Institute, eventually earning a spot on the Keydets roster.

Castleberry was a three-year letterman at VMI, starting his final two seasons with the program. His career statistics are far from gaudy, averaging just 1.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.7 assists over the course of his 94 career games and 31 starts, but his leadership was evident. As a senior in 2006-07, Castleberry served as the Keydets team captain.

Following his graduation from VMI, Castleberry immediately went into coaching as an assistant for the University of Tennessee-Martin for the 2007-08 season. The next year, Castleberry joined the coaching staff at his alma mater under his former head coach Duggar Baucom and served as an assistant for four years.

He then tried his hand in the women’s game, joining the program at Siena College from 2012-2014, the same period when Anderson worked for the men’s team there. But, despite some success as an assistant coach, Castleberry decided to take a step back from coaching and moved to Philadelphia to work in the private sector for a couple of years. But after doing some volunteer coaching for Philadelphia Catholic League, Castleberry’s coaching itch returned.

“I left VMI to go to Sienna for two years on the women’s side then I actually chose to get out of it,” Castleberry told Hatfield. “I spent about a year volunteering at the Philly Catholic League, loved it [and] immediately missed being in the gym.”

Fortunately for Castleberry, his former head coach Baucom landed a job at The Citadel and looked to his former player to once again join him. Castleberry did without hesitation, coaching under his mentor for six years.

“The guy that I played for and worked for at VMI, Duggar Baucum, got a job at The Citadel,” Castleberry continued. “So he had a job back down there so I got back in there and I was there for six years.”

During his time with the Bulldogs, Castleberry helped the program reach new heights. During his six years, The Citadel was ranked in the top 25 in points per game in D-I basketball three times. He also helped the Bulldogs beat Pitt 78-63 in the 2021 season opener, the first time the school had defeated a Power 5 program since 1989 and an ACC opponent since 1979.

It was also during that 2021 season that Castleberry was given the hardest task of his coaching career. In the first half of the fifth game of the season, a road contest against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Baucum collapsed and had to be helped off the court to receive medical attention. During a time of panic and concern, the Bulldogs turned to their long-time assistant coach. Though The Citadel wouldn’t win the game, they showed their composure in a difficult situation and even set the record for most 3-point field goals made by an opponent in Cameron Indoor Stadium history with 18.

Now, Castleberry once again faces unprecedented pressure as he replaces a coach that just led this team to one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. However, if there is someone who can handle this sort of situation, it’s Castleberry. Given his determination as both a player and a coach, his knowledge of high-octane offenses and his connection to the FDU coaching staff and players, Castleberry should be able to find success early in his tenure with the Knights.

While some assistant coaches put in similar situations may cower at the prospect of replacing one of the program’s legends, that’s not the case for Castleberry. He is ready for this opportunity, one that he’s been waiting for since he was just a kid joining his dad on a day at work.