Former Towson basketball coach Terry Truax is on the move again, this time taking his academics-first approach to a North Carolina high school power.

Transition Game


When Terry Truax was fired as the basketball coach at what is now Towson University in 1997, he didn't know what he would do next. But after more than a quarter-century as a Division I head coach and assistant, he figured he wouldn't have to coach a high school team.

As it turned out, the end of Truax's Towson tenure marked the beginning of a nine-year coaching odyssey that put him with players ranging from South Korean pros to 12-year-old rec league girls. For the past three years, he coached at Yeshivat Rambam, a Jewish school in Northwest Baltimore.

To say the experience rearranged his priorities would be an understatement.

"Now I really understand the purpose of what I do," Truax, 62, said recently. "It's not about the coaching. It's about the interaction with young people."

The idea of coaching high school players isn't just palatable to him now; it's what he wants.

"This is more rewarding," he said. "It doesn't pay as well, but it's much more rewarding."

Next month, after more than two decades in Baltimore, Truax will relocate to Lenoir, N.C., to coach the varsity at the Patterson School, a prep school with a strong basketball program that produces Division I talent. It amounts to his re-entry to the major college pipeline, but that matters to him less than the chance to influence talented youngsters.

"I think I can help them improve as players, but I'm really concerned about them being stimulated to learn [in school]. It's a chance to do what I can to make a difference," said Truax, who took two Towson teams to the NCAA tournament in 14 years at the school and, according to the school's sports information office, also graduated at least 95 percent of his players.

Patterson is getting a coach with nothing left to prove except that he still burns to do things right, a coach who was an assistant under North Carolina's Dean Smith, corresponds with UCLA legend John Wooden and holds strong opinions about the state of the game he loves.

Coaches? They're paid too much, Truax said. Recruiting and academic scandals? They're the function of misplaced priorities.

"It's easy for me to say because I've never made a lot of money coaching," he said. "But I don't think a coach should get paid for what kind of shoes a kid wears. I don't think a coach should get a bonus because his kids graduate. What do you go to college for? What's the message we're sending in terms of entitlement for these guys? This is why we have a lot of the problems we have."

More than 100 coaches applied for the Patterson job, said Colin Stevens, the school's headmaster. The pool included Division II head coaches, Division I assistants and NBA scouts. But Truax's application ended the search.

"His basketball expertise speaks for itself, but what is much more important to me is the way he conducts himself. Integrity is a word I keep coming back to," Stevens said.

Coach's classroom

Besides coaching, Truax will teach a full load of English classes, focusing on poetry. He and his wife, Pam, who will also work at the school, will live on Patterson's remote campus in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It's hardly where Truax expected to land when he was an ambitious young coach in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After the Hancock , Md., native played for Bud Millikan (and teamed with Gary Williams) at the University of Maryland, he took a job coaching the freshman team at powerhouse DeMatha High and won 50 straight games with future NBA star Adrian Dantley among his players. Then he rose through the college ranks as an assistant at Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and Mississippi State, always dreaming of the day when he might lead a program capable of winning the national title.

"I was naive enough to think, in 1974, at age 30, that I could be the next coach at Kentucky," he said. "Thirty years later, the realism has set in."

He became a head coach when Towson (then Towson State) hired him in 1983. The school had just moved to Division I, and Truax established a long-range goal of taking a team to the NCAA tournament. He made it in 1990, and then again in 1991.

His program never had a whiff of scandal and was relatively successful; although Truax's career record was 202-203, the Tigers had winning records in seven of his last nine seasons.

"When we recruited, we said, `We promise nothing and we live up to our promise,'" he said. "I would ask recruits, `Is earning a degree important to you?' If they said yes, I'd say, `Oh, good, then I shouldn't have a problem with you missing class, should I?' I lost a couple of kids that way."

Sent on his way

A change in Towson's athletic administration (and maybe a 9-19 record in the 1996-97 season) led to his ouster in 1997. Towson hasn't had a winning season since he left. Current Tigers coach Pat Kennedy is the program's third in nine years.

Truax couldn't resist applying the needle when he was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame at a dinner in 2004.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.