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Morgan State coach rejuvenated, set for WVU

| Thursday, March 18, 2010

Morgan State basketball coach Todd Bozeman was considered persona non grata for 10 years.

Bozeman bounced around as a pro assistant and scout, waiting in limbo to become the first coach in NCAA history to land at another college job after receiving a "show-cause'' order that no member school could hire him without permission.

Bozeman's punishment, which lasted eight years, was the result of him admitting to paying $30,000 over two years to the parents of a University of California recruit. A subsequent investigation led to Bozeman's dismissal and Cal having to forfeit the 1994-95 season and all but two games of the 1995-96 campaign.

Bozeman, whose No. 15 seed Bears (27-9) face No. 2 seed West Virginia (27-6) at 12:15 p.m. Friday in a first-round East Regional game at Buffalo, N.Y., essentially was banned from coaching in the collegiate ranks.

He said receiving a second-chance at Morgan State in April 2006 did more than just revitalize his coaching career. It presented him with a new outlook on life.

"It was tough, because I felt like I let a lot of people down that supported me,'' said Bozeman, 46. "Sometimes in your youth you don't understand that. You don't realize that you represent so many more people.''

Bozeman was 29 years old when he replaced Lou Campanelli in February 1993 with 10 games remaining in the season. In guiding a Cal ballclub led by Jason Kidd to an upset of two-time defending champion Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Bozeman became the youngest coach to take a team to the Sweet 16.

Upon becoming the permanent coach, Bozeman led Cal to two more NCAA appearances. During his tenure, Cal had three finishes in the top four of the Pac-10, ranked in the Top 20 each year, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals for the first time since 1960.

None of those accolades prevented Bozeman from being forced to resign in the fall of 1996.

"Back then it was all instinct, because I didn't go through a process to determine whether I was qualified for the job. I was thrown into the fire, and you have to survive,'' Bozeman said.

After leaving Cal, Bozeman became a survivor, a man without a college team.

He spent two seasons as a college basketball analyst and conducted coaching clinics in South America and Africa before catching on with the NBA's Toronto Raptors and Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies.

After being forced to pay his dues while serving penance in a coach's no-man's land, Bozeman's name finally surfaced at Morgan State, which was coming off a 4-26 campaign in 2005-06.

"Morgan State determined that Coach Bozeman was the best applicant, candidate and selection,'' athletic director Floyd Kerr said.

Following a year of transition featuring a 13-18 record in his first season, Bozeman's Morgan State squads have posted three consecutive 20-win campaigns featuring two consecutive NCAA appearances.

Bozeman's teams have won three consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season championships and back-to-back MEAC conference titles. This year's win total is the school's highest at the Division I level and its most since finishing 28-5 in 1973-74 when the Bears won the Division II national championship with Marvin "The Human Eraser'' Webster.

"I always had a dream and a goal of taking a historically black college and making it a national power,'' Bozeman said when he accepted the position.

In short work, Bozeman has not only worked magic in reclaiming his reputation as one of the top college basketball coaches in the country, he's also turned Morgan State into a formidable mid-major power capable of dominating its own league.

The Bears have currently won seven in a row and 19 of 21 after defeating South Carolina State 68-61 in the MEAC championship game.

All-conference senior guard Reggie Holmes, who averages a team-high 21.9 points a game, is the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,049 points. Senior forward Kevin Thompson (12.9 points, 12.0 rebounds) was named MEAC defensive player of the year and the tournament's outstanding player. Freshman wing DeWayne Jackson (10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds) was named MEAC rookie of the year.

Bozeman's peers are noticing. He's among 15 finalists for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year award, which he won last year for the first time. He's also been named MEAC coach of the year three years running.

"We are dancing,'' Bozeman said of returning to the NCAA Tournament and the upcoming matchup with West Virginia. "Once you drink from that cup, you want more.''

The Todd Bozeman file

» Bozeman is making his fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in eight years as a Division I coach. He went to the NCAA three times in four seasons at California and has gone two times in four years at Morgan State.

» Some of Bozeman's top recruits at Cal included NBA lottery picks Jason Kidd, Lamond Murray and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Other Cal players under Bozeman who played in the NBA include Sean Marks, Ed Gray and Michael Stewart. Tony Gonzalez, one of Bozeman's most famous players at Cal, is best known as a future Hall of Fame tight end now with the Atlanta Falcons.

» After being forced to resign at Cal because of NCAA infractions and having to sit out 10 years, Bozeman became the first coach to be hired at another school after receiving a "show-cause" order.

» In addition to the NCAA infraction, Bozeman's reputation was also hurt by rumors that he underminded former Cal coach Lou Campanelli. However, the National Association of Basketball Coaches cleared Bozeman of any wrongdoing that led to Campanelli's dismissal.

» Under Bozeman, Morgan State, which finished 4-26 the year before he arrived, has posted three consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles along with three straight 20-win campaigns.

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