Following a life committed to sport, alumnus Mark McKown, who graduated from the Academy in 1987 with a Master of Sport Science degree in Sports Coaching, has recently been selected for a promotion by the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, Utah. McKown joined the team in 1997 as the first full-time Strength and Conditioning Coach and has now been named the Director of Sports Science for the National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise.“My background as both a basketball coach and strength coach has allowed me to integrate those two areas into the programs that I have designed for our players,” he said. “The profession is ever evolving, and although the applied sports science side of strength and conditioning has taken me along a slightly different path, it is one that is strongly connected with strength training and conditioning.”

McKown has held several different coaching positions throughout his career, including serving as a Graduate Assistant Basketball Coach at his Alma Mater, South Carolina Upstate. He was also an athletic training intern under Warren Arial, a National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame Trainer. McKown went on to coach at the high school level, back to the college level, and then switched gears along the way becoming a college strength coach.

“This allowed me to work with the New York Knicks in their training camps, which opened the door for me to get a job working with the Utah Jazz starting in 1997.”

As such, this year marks McKown’s 19th season with the Utah Jazz, a career that he had not intended to last more than a couple of seasons.

“I fell in love with Salt Lake City, got to work with some of the world’s best athletes, including two of the best of all time in Karl Malone and John Stockton,” he said. “I had an opportunity to work for and learn from some of the best minds in basketball, including Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, Frank and Scott Layden, and Dennis Lindsey, who is also an Academy Alumnus.”

Prior to his career with the Utah Jazz, immediately after he and his wife, Sonja, were married, the two headed straight to Daphne, Ala., for McKown to start his classes at the Academy, as the institution was still primarily a residential school at the time.

“Going to the Academy was the best career move I have ever made,” he said. “I would not be where I am today had I not taken the step to go there.”

McKown believes that the Academy was, and still is; ahead of the curve in terms of the way the institution allows its students to receive a quality education in specialized sport-related fields.

“I have been and will continue to be one of the Academy’s biggest fans,” he said. “Anyone wanting a career in sport would be wise to explore the opportunities offered to them by the Academy.”

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit