The basketball-minded Christian Brothers, Jamion and Jarell, studied like coaches as teenagers.
Their parents surrendered usage of their 1990’s era VCR so their kids could record one NBA or college game after another. They loved the players, but kept a close watch on the men roaming the sideline.
After playing stints on the college level, the South Kent County, Va. natives successfully pursued that passion. Both elevated to head coaching jobs. They were now in a position to analyze opposing coaches live. They did, with one notable exception: Each other.
“I’ve never actually been to a game where he was the head coach,” said Jarell, who just completed his first year as the head coach for the Wizards’ G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. “He’s never seen me coach.”
The same goes for Jamion, 36 and four years older than Jarell. The notable omission isn’t a case of sibling rivalry. Jarell humbly admits Jamion was the better basketball player “hands down. I was more aggressive, but he was more athletic, a better shooter.”
Brotherly love is real between the two. So are the life obstacles from their nomadic coaching lives.
That’s about to change now that Jamion is the new men’s basketball coach at George Washington.
“Just fired up to be here with my brother,” Jamion told NBC Sports Washington following Monday’s introductory press conference. “Be able to watch his success, his growth. He’s grown so much as a coach in the last four to five years, but it’s been at a distance. I haven’t had a chance to watch him as much.”
Forget watching each other’s in-game strategy or demeanor from the stands. Other than a brief time when both were at Division III Emory & Henry – Jamion served as an assistant, Jarell one of the team’s guards – the two haven’t lived in the same city since Jamion left home in 2000 to play for Mount St. Mary’s.
“Just doing the things most siblings do often we haven’t been able to do for quite some time. Even having our family come up and watch us both in the same weekend will be kind of special,” Jarell told NBC Sports Washington.
The entire Christian clan attended Monday’s event on the Foggy Bottom campus. Jarell’s connection to the Colonials before Jamion’s hire came from Capital City general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who was one of the best players in GW’s history. The two helped lead the expansion Go-Go to a 25-25 record this season.
Jamion’s coaching résumé includes reaching the NCAA Tournament twice during his six seasons coaching his alma mater before taking over at Siena for the 2018-19 season. He led the Saints to a nine-win improvement in his lone season. Then GW came calling.
“It was a tough decision,” Christian said of leaving Siena. He ultimately could not pass on the opportunity to coach in the Atlantic 10 and specifically the D.C.-based school.
During his introductory comments and press conference, Jamion showed the traits that drew interest from George Washington. There will not be a viral video of Jamion screaming at a player. His vibe is closer to a high-energy motivational speaker than a stodgy basketball coach.
“I think this synergy and this connectivity is what really makes the difference. I don't necessarily think it's the coaching strategy like some people might want to believe,” Jamion Christian said of his program-building mindset. “I think it's just about getting your group to play close together, to believe in one another and fight through adversity and love the process of doing it.”
There’s more to this Christian brother’s rise up the coaching ranks beyond inspiring words.
“[Jamion’s] work ethic is something I always noticed,” Jarell said.
When the two grew up outside of Richmond, Jamion often woke Jarell up at 7 a.m. to drag his little brother to the basketball court. “At that time it was just for me to rebound for him,” Jarell joked, but those early rising moments helped trigger his love of basketball.
Jarell knew he wanted to try coaching somewhere around eighth grade. He turned on the family VCR to watch college point guards like Mateen Cleaves and Khalid El-Amin. Specifically, how they controlled the game as extensions of their respective head coaches.
Pigeonholing one brother as a motivator and the other a strategist doesn’t paint a complete picture of either. It does perhaps explain why one landed in the pros and the other remains in the college game.
“I like the college system. I value education and what it gives to them, and I like recruiting,” Jamion said. “I think that’s the biggest difference (between us). Recruiting is something you really have to love and I do love it. I think [Jarell] loves more of the coaching and the time with the guys. We’ve got two different personalities in that way, but are both pretty good in our own regard.
Now the coaching brothers have the chance to watch the other at work in person, not to mention offer advice and drop a playful jab along the way.
“We’ve got an opportunity here and we don’t know long this opportunity will present itself so I’m going to try to take full advantage of it,” Jamion said. “I just hope his team stops giving up 120 points a game. Play a little better defense.”
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