Mitchell out to polish 'diamond' Coppin coach hopes glory means funds

March 18, 1997|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Fang Mitchell's feet were dragging yesterday afternoon as he made the short walk from his office at the Coppin Center to a news conference at the Tawes Center.

Along the way, Mitchell, who has been in the national spotlight since Friday's shocking win over South Carolina in the NCAA basketball tournament, was congratulated by several members of Coppin State's student body.

Once inside the Tawes Center, Mitchell used the forum to thank his longtime supporters for "sticking with the team through the tough times," and urged the new fans, who have jumped on board since the Eagles' surprise showing in the tournament, to lend their financial support.

"Coppin State basketball is a diamond in the rough," said Mitchell, whose Eagles, by the narrowest of margins -- an 82-81 loss to Texas -- missed becoming the first 15th-seeded team in NCAA tournament history to advance to the Sweet 16.

"Finances have held us back for years and years, but right now there are a lot of people on the Coppin State bandwagon and I'm making a pitch to the Joe Schmoes of the world and the corporations to pitch in and become a partner with the program."

Coppin State won the hearts of many college basketball fans with its first-round upset of second-seeded South Carolina and its nearly successful effort against Texas Sunday.

For appearing in the two games, Coppin will receive approximately $100,000 from the NCAA and an estimated $150,000 will be split among the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's league office and its nine other participating institutions.

"I'm still in shock. It was incredible playing in front of 20,000 screaming fans. It was an experience I will never forget. It's something I can tell my kids and my grandkids about," said Coppin State guard Danny Singletary, who scored 22 points in the Eagles' 78-65 first-round win. "No one in Pittsburgh [site of the East sub-regional] knew who Coppin State was, but they know us now."

The national exposure and publicity Coppin received during the tournament was flattering to those involved with the program, but the real measuring stick of the impact this year's tournament will have on the program will come when Mitchell and his staff return to recruiting student-athletes.

"It's hard to compete recruiting against the Dukes and the Carolinas out there, but maybe now some of the big-time players will at least consider Coppin State," said Eagles guard Antoine Brockington. "Sure, we're a little school, but that doesn't mean we can't play."

Just ask the Gamecocks and Longhorns.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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