Starting Over in Baltimore

Oct. 13, 2006


By Bryan Armen Graham



Bryan is a basketball editor for and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
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RALEIGH -- Each of the three first-year coaches in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is appreciative of his opportunities to coach the game he loves at the highest amateur level.


But for one, the opportunity to coach Division I college basketball is an extra-special privilege. Morgan State's Todd Bozeman has been out of coaching for nearly a decade as a result of an NCAA sanction handed down in 1997.


"It's been very good," said Bozeman at the MEAC media day and press luncheon Thursday at the RBC Center. "I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the opportunity to get back into college basketball"


You would have been hard-pressed to find a hotter young coach in college basketball during the early 1990s than Bozeman, who assumed the reins at the University of California in an interim capacity on Feb. 8, 1993, when incumbent Lou Campanelli was forced out amid allegations that he was verbally abusing his players.


The Golden Bears would rally behind the charismatic 29-year-old and make an improbable late-season run that ended in the Sweet 16. Along the way, they scored an unforgettable scalp of two-time defending national champion Duke which landed the program -- and blossoming star Jason Kidd -- on the cover of Sports Illustrated.


The fair-haired boy of college basketball (and the youngest coach to ever advance his school to the Sweet 16)l, Bozeman would lead a program to a 63-35 record over three-and-a-half seasons. During that time, the young, energetic and well-dressed coach earned a reputation as a tireless recruiter. Among the players that Bozeman helped bring to Berkley were future pro talents Kidd, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ed Gray, Sean Marks and Lamond Murray.


And then the roof caved in.


After admitting to paying $30,000 to the family of former Cal player Jelani Gardner, the NCAA handed down an eight-year "show-cause" ban -- a sanction known only half-jokingly as the death penalty in basketball circles. His 63-35 career record became 35-63 as a result of imposed forfeits. While Bozeman wasn't outlawed from coaching per se, any school interested in hiring him during the sanction would have needed to present its reasons before the NCAA infractions committee -- a risk no program proved willing to take.


During his time away from coaching, Bozeman stayed around the game in a number of capacities.


"I was a scout for a few NBA teams, I ran clinics in several countries, I did some some color commentary for NBC," Bozeman said. "I was also a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer."


Bozeman also did some coaching at the AAU level, which has helped him maintain his recruiting inroads. He notes that his time outside of the Division I spotlight afforded him the opportunity to develop stronger bonds with his wife and two children than he otherwise would have.


The scarlet letter was removed when his show-cause penalty ended on June 1, 2005. Flash forward one year later to when Alfred Beard resigned as Morgan State coach in the wake of a 4-26 nightmare -- the program's worst record since 2001 -- and the woebegone Bears came knocking.


"Since the `show-cause' penalty that was imposed upon Mr. Bozeman as a result of this case expired as of June 1, 2005", said MSU athletics director Floyd Kerr upon the hiring, "and there are no procedural impediments to his seeking employment at an NCAA institution, Morgan State University determined that Coach Bozeman was the best applicant, candidate and selection for its head men's basketball coaching position."


Bozeman returns three starters from last year's Bears including senior guard Joseph McLean, whose 14.7 points per game ranked fifth in the MEAC. But most of the excitement in Baltimore surrounds Bozeman's eight-man recruiting class. After all, drawing talent was always his forte.


Bozeman spoke Thursday about the excitement that comes with building something special from the ground up, and the coach hopes to draw from such past experiences as the Bears look to make a push in the MEAC.


"When I came to Tulane [in 1988], there wasn't much of a program and they were quite good by the time I left," Bozeman noted. "Cal had also struggled a little bit."


A second chance has been long time coming for Bozeman, and the older, wiser coach is dead-set on making the most of it.


"I'm excited to get this opportunity," Bozeman said. "To take a team, build a solid foundation and create excitement -- to make a program that the alumni, students and fans can be proud of."



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