Nate James was named APSU’s 13th men’s basketball coach on Tuesday, April 6. HASSAN TAYLOR | THE ALL STATE

The arrival of Nate James has stirred a newfound excitement in the men’s basketball program at APSU.

No one is more enthused than the newest man at the helm of one of the university’s most historic programs.

“I am incredibly excited about this opportunity,” James said. “Very honored and proud to be the 13th head coach at Austin Peay State University. I am just really looking forward to being with my guys and doing something special here that everyone can be extremely proud of and work with these young men and help them tap into all of the potential that they have and have a little fun, bring the community together and see what we can do to get back to the mountaintop.”

Following a nearly 14-year coaching career at his alma mater of Duke University, James arrives in Clarksville as a first-time head coach with a more than admirable resume that rivals that of even the most veteran coaches in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Garnering three national championships for his combined two decades in Durham, N.C., James also played a vital role in the development of some of the most well-known names in basketball such as Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson. 

While he previously played and coached the majority of his games in in the historic Cameron Indoor Stadium, the newly minted head coach’s excitement to call the Winfield Dunn Center home and lead his own squadron of players is unrivaled.

“It was very surreal,” James said of walking in the Dunn Center for the first time. “It was a very joyous moment for me. Actually, when I came during the interview process… and I walked in, just butterflies started to turn in my stomach, and I just saw this place as somewhere that I could lead young men and do some great things. 

Nate James shakes hands with legendary APSU head coach Dave Loos.

“I heard about the new facility, you’re always excited about the new facilities and things. But to be honest, even if it didn’t happen, I was just so ecstatic that I could potentially be the head coach and walk up and down the sideline and be in the Dunn [Center] and see it packed and having our team play their butts off and be successful. To walk around and to see it, to feel it and have all of the excitement, I was almost like a kid. I couldn’t stop smiling and couldn’t contain the joy I was feeling.”

James plans to alter the Governors into a more defensive-oriented team that generates offensive opportunities through a constant pressure on the defensive end—a philosophy that begins in the gym.

“We’ve got to be in great shape,” James said. “If you’re not in good shape, you can’t do the things that I want to do [like] picking teams up. We’ve got to pressure the ball. If you can pressure the ball, you can control the head of the snake. It makes it a challenge for any team to run an offense…The ball pressure is key. If you apply it, chances are people don’t like it, so they are going to pass it and if you’re alert, if you’re talking, if you’re active, I want deflections. 

“That is the type of thing I will chart in practice. If we have active hands, if we’re talking, that leads to active hands and talking in the game where everything matters. Whatever you are really focusing on, if it matters to you, you have to practice it, you have to chart it and you have to make it something that is a focal point and that’s what I want to do.”

Now officially the head coach of the men’s basketball program, James will begin the task of filling out his first coaching staff while also looking to bring in new recruits and transfers in hopes of guiding the Govs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016.