With Morgan, Bozeman gets his second chance

He returns to coaching after eight-year ban

College basketball

April 28, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

With phrases such as "new direction" and "turning point," Morgan State athletic director Floyd Kerr introduced Todd Bozeman as the school's 15th men's basketball coach yesterday.

"Everybody says this is a sleeping giant," said Bozeman, 42. "This is a tremendous opportunity."

The former California coach returns to the profession after eight years of exile imposed by the NCAA for a rules infraction that involved an illegal payment to a player's family. He takes over a program that was beset by an assortment of woes last season culminating in last month's resignation of Butch Beard.

Bozeman thanked school president Earl Richardson "for his courage in doing something a little different, for allowing me this opportunity to venture back into what I feel is my passion, my love.

"The only thing that makes it not complete is I wanted to get back in before my dad passed," said Bozeman, who was chosen from a number of candidates at the end of a protracted selection process.

Several times, Bozeman became emotional when he discussed the influence of his father, Ira, who died on New Year's Day. "I would give anything just to see a smile on his face," he said.

"I don't have any bitterness in my heart for any opportunity I didn't get before," he added. "The goal is to make Morgan basketball a special place."

A Prince George's County resident, Bozeman cited George Mason's run to this year's Final Four as an example of a smaller school being able to accomplish bigger goals. "That lets you know it's possible," he said.

Bozeman said he will not retain any of Beard's coaching staff and he has "people in mind" to serve as assistants. "The staff will have a Baltimore presence," he said. He has not talked yet with the holdover players, whom he said he will meet with individually.

The best of the returnees, upcoming senior Joe McLean, said he is "excited. First and foremost, this will bring new life. I think this will be a different experience."

With a 14.7 scoring average, McLean led the team last season. He said "it took a lot of courage" to bring the new coach back into the mainstream. "But I think you have to go through something to get to where you're going. This is a good situation for him."

T.J. Mathis started the first nine games at point guard last season before being shelved by academic problems. He is eager to get working.

"We finally got a coach. Let's get the show on the road," Mathis said. "We're coming off a disappointing year [4-26 record] and we want to start fresh. I'm happy to have someone with big-time experience. He's ready to work. That sounds good to me."

Bozeman said he is relatively familiar with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference from going to games, serving as a media analyst and his contact with coaches such as Fang Mitchell of Coppin State and Dwight Freeman of Norfolk State. But he said he will not model the program after any of his coaching adversaries.

"We want to be able to go as high as we can," he said. "We want to build a house with brick and cement, not straw that the wind will blow away. But coaches don't win, administrations do. We want to attract players with the courage Dr. Richardson has."

As to his checkered past -- which included becoming the youngest coach (29) ever in the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in addition to the NCAA sanction -- Bozeman attributed it to youth.

"It was tough because I felt like I let a lot of people down. As a youth, you don't really understand that," he said.

His new dawn began yesterday.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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