A Winning Combination

Tony Skinn, Marvin Lewis holding a basketball, and Vanessa Blair-Lewis on the EagleBank Arena basketball court
Photo by Ron Aira

With dynamic new leadership and some Final Four nostalgia, Mason Nation looks forward to another basketball season.

Something caught Marvin Lewis's eye during a visit to George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.

With plenty to learn and do, Mason’s new assistant vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics was on campus well before his official start date of July 1. One of his errands included a stop by Human Resources.

One of the items Lewis saw while in Merten Hall was a photo from the Mason men’s basketball 2006 NCAA Final Four appearance. Another was a poster with a simple message: “Wear your Mason gear—We're all in.”

It was just one of many reminders Lewis has encountered on campus that reassures him he’s found the right place.

"It’s those types of things, starting with the president to the overall support from the university, that gets me excited," Lewis says.

Marvin Lewis
Read our full Q&A with Marvin Lewis.

There is a lot for the Patriots to be excited about as Lewis begins his tenure as the school's sixth athletic director. He grew up across the Potomac River in Germantown, Maryland, and knows the area well. He possesses a high-profile athletic background, which includes starting for four years with Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team and capping his career with a Final Four appearance with the university’s Yellow Jackets.

Lewis knows both the advantages and challenges of working at schools in a major metropolitan area, since he has made stops at Georgia State University, University of Maryland, and Georgia Tech over the past 15 years.

He had major responsibilities for the last two years at Brown University, where he served as the school's assistant vice president and chief operating officer for athletics and recreation. He’s also earned a reputation as an exceptional communicator who has firm command of the demands of college sports during a tumultuous era.

As Lewis was preparing to join Mason, three of Mason’s 22 NCAA Division I sports teams brought home Atlantic 10 Conference trophies: baseball, softball, and women’s track and field.

"Of course, you want to win championships, retain really good coaches and staff, and continue to build on our momentum," Lewis says.

And there is a lot of momentum around basketball.

Vanessa Blair-Lewis
Read our full Q&A with Vanessa Blair-Lewis.

Women’s basketball head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis’s contract has been extended through the 2027–28 season. The extension comes after the Patriots’ rapid improvement under Blair-Lewis’s leadership during her first two seasons at Mason.

Two years ago, Blair-Lewis inherited a team that had finished 3-19 overall and 0-14 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. But today, the Patriots are on the rise. They finished 16-15 last season, with eight conference victories, and they won a conference tournament game in both years of Blair-Lewis’s tenure.

“In a short period of time, we have built an amazing family environment and a strong culture in which everyone is loved, valued, and respected,” says Blair-Lewis. “I am proud to serve this great university and will continue to make Mason Nation proud. In all we do, excellence is our standard.”

Tony Skinn
Read our full Q&A with Tony Skinn.

The selection of Mason alum Tony Skinn, BA Communication ’06, as the 12th head coach in the Mason men’s basketball program has generated excitement with alumni. A key starter on Mason’s 2006 Final Four team and one of the best all-around guards in program history, Skinn returns to Mason after nearly a decade of collegiate coaching.

During that decorated coaching career, Skinn has guided three different programs, including University of Maryland, to the NCAA Tournament; been a part of six 20+ win campaigns; and established himself as a stout recruiter both within the talent-rich Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and across the country. 

“It is with great excitement that I return home to Mason,” Skinn says. “I’ve had some of my greatest memories here and I’m looking forward to making new ones with our fans and our community. Our best days are ahead!”

Patrick Stevens contributed to this article.

Facts about Mason Athletics

NCAA Division I Teams: 22

Athletic Conference: Atlantic 10 Conference

Men's Sports: Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Swimming and Diving, Tennis, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Volleyball, Wrestling

Women's Sports: Basketball, Cross Country, Lacrosse, Rowing, Soccer, Softball, Swimming and Diving, Tennis, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Volleyball

1 of 4 Nationally: In spring 2021, Mason was named one of only 10 Division I athletic departments to post a perfect score of 100 on Athlete Ally's Athletic Equality Index (AEI). Mason also holds a perfect score of five on the Campus Pride Index (CPI). That makes Mason one of just four Division I schools in the nation to boast a perfect 100 on the AEI and a five on the CPI.