Morgan close to hiring coach

3 finalists emerge, but ex-Terp Booth could be outside factor

April 21, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Morgan State has whittled down dozens of candidates for its men's basketball coaching position to three finalists and is expected to announce the successor to Butch Beard shortly.

"We want to do it as soon as possible," Morgan athletic director Floyd Kerr said. "We had lots of applicants, lots of interest and we've gotten through the screening process and interviewing."

Kerr confirmed that the remaining candidates are Bowie State coach Luke D'Alessio, Toledo assistant Michael Grant and former California coach Todd Bozeman.

"I think they are all proven winners with successful track records and all fit our mission," Kerr said.

Maryland assistant Keith Booth, a former Terps and Dunbar High star, was interviewed and screened but is not in the running, Kerr said. But there are indications that Booth might resurface as a compromise candidate because the search committee cannot agree on one final choice.

D'Alessio is the best known locally of the field after building programs virtually from scratch at the Community College of Baltimore-Catonsville and Bowie State on meager budgets. He has also had resounding success at recruiting local players from Baltimore, Washington and their suburban areas.

"I told them [at Morgan] this would be an ideal job for me," said D'Alessio, 46, who was a finalist for the job five years ago when Beard was hired. "I've never been fired, never committed any NCAA violations and I have a track record of coaching Baltimore kids. I've done rebuilding jobs, and for me this is the next step."

D'Alessio has taken a once-dormant Bowie program to the national Division II Final Four in 2003, a No. 1 ranking in the nation last year and into a highly competitive contest for dominance in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association with Virginia Union, which won the national title in 2005 and lost in the final this year.

"I know I can work with Maryland kids," he said. "I know they are good enough, even the second-tier ones, to win. I understand the dynamics. I'm just a blue-collar person who is going to make every buck count. But committees sometimes prefer going after `names.'"

Grant has spent one year at Toledo after head coaching positions at Central (Ohio) State and Southern (La.). He was 126-94 in seven seasons at Central, including three 20-win seasons.

Bozeman, the former head coach of California who attended Bishop McNamara, is the most recognizable name. He became coach at Cal midway through the 1992-93 season at age 29, and the Golden Bears went to the NCAA tournament and upset defending champion Duke in the second round.

California hasn't won another NCAA tournament game since, and Bozeman was forced to resign after the 1996 season for admitted recruiting violations involving cash payments to a player.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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