Mitchell calls Coppin's contract offer 'unacceptable'

Iconic coach says negotiations will continue next week

March 17, 2011|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Fang Mitchell rejected an offer Thursday to remain as coach of Coppin State's men's basketball team, saying the contract was "unacceptable" but that negotiations will continue.

"It wasn't done in good faith," Mitchell said of the offer after a scheduled meeting with university president Reginald Avery.

Mitchell has coached at Coppin for 25 years, won 395 games, gone to four NCAA tournaments and captured 10 regular-season championships in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

He declined to say why the contract was unacceptable, but he said he expected negotiations to resume next week.

Asked if he believed he could still get a deal to remain at Coppin, he said, "Yes, in talking with the president, we should be able to get it done."

Mitchell's contract, originally a 10-year deal, expires in June.

Neither Avery nor athletic director Derrick Ramsey returned phone messages the past two days seeking comment on Mitchell's status.

Although Mitchell's Eagles ruled the MEAC in the 1990s — when they lost just seven regular-season games over a six-year period — they have struggled since then. The low point was a 6-25 season in 2001-02. It was during that period that Coppin began scheduling "guarantee" games against elite opponents that raised revenue for the school but were automatic losses on the court.

In 2008, Coppin became the first team with 20 losses to advance to the NCAA tourney after they upset Morgan State in the MEAC championship game. That team finished 16-21.

This season, the Eagles halted the cycle of losing, going 11-5 in the MEAC and 16-14 overall. That snapped a string of six consecutive losing seasons, but they lost in the tournament semifinals as a third seed last week.

Mitchell — and all other Coppin coaches — have been under a mandate from Ramsey to win and contend for conference championships.

In an interview before the MEAC tournament, Ramsey stressed that he expected all his teams to perform at a high level while also doing well in the classroom. Ramsey said at the time that he had not made a decision on whether to retain Mitchell for a 26th season.

"We have to understand that we're trying to win everything all the time," Ramsey said. "As I tell my coaches and my players, hell, let somebody else compete, I want to win.

"To say it's unrealistic … I beg to differ. Is luck involved? Absolutely. But there's a whole lot more work involved than there's luck. And so I believe that you create your luck. Can we do what we did in the '90s? Why can't we do it in the years to come?"

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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