Morgan State heldits first basketball practice last Friday night, and it didn't go well. As theteam scrimmaged, coach Todd Bozeman had to halt the action every few minutesfor a new admonishment. Set up deeper for the inbounds pass.... Don't let yourman get behind you like that.... Are you really going to play defense with yourhands on your knees?
Even if it wasn'tthe most encouraging display of basketball prowess, Bozeman still had to smileafterward. "I've been wanting to practice for the longest time," hesaid.
He's been waiting10 years, to be exact, since being sanctioned by the NCAA for recruitingviolations he committed at Cal, but now he's back. True, it's at Morgan State,which went 4--26 last year playing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference andhasn't had a winning season since 1989. But Bozeman, whose Cal team onceknocked Duke out of the NCAA tournament, doesn't seem to mind that he's nowgunning for Delaware State. "Think about it," says Bozeman, 42."The last few years I've been coaching 9-and-unders, 10-and-unders,11-and-unders."
Bozeman was oncethe boy wonder of college basketball. He took over in Berkeley in 1993, afterthe midseason firing of Lou Campanelli, and at 29 he became the youngest coachto take a team to the Sweet 16. He guided Cal to three NCAA tournamentappearances in four years while producing three NBA lottery picks: Jason Kidd,Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Lamond Murray.
But then he gotcaught cheating. In 1994 Bozeman had promised the parents of Jelani Gardner,California's high school player of the year, $15,000 a year in travel money asan inducement for their son to sign with Cal. A year later Gardner's father,upset with his son's playing time, secretly taped a conversation with the coachin which they discussed their financial arrangement; in 1996 he turned Bozemanin to the NCAA. The punishment, handed down the following year, was predictablyharsh: an eight-year "show-cause" ban during which any school wishingto hire Bozeman had to clear it first with the NCAA. He was effectivelydone.
Even though he'dbeen exiled to the basketball wilderness, Bozeman tried to keep a hand in thegame. He traveled to Africa and South America for clinics. From 1998 to 2001 hescouted for the Toronto Raptors, and for the last five years, while living inhis old hometown of Bowie, Md., and working as a sales rep for Pfizer, hecoached AAU youth basketball.
The NCAAsanctions expired in 2005, but only this spring did Bozeman get his firsthead-coaching interviews, at Hampton (which didn't offer him the job) andMorgan State, which last April gave Bozeman a three-year contract with a$135,000 annual base salary. Athletic director Floyd Kerr says he hired Bozemanfor his knowledge of the local AAU scene and also for the attention he wouldbring to a struggling program. "We're a country that's noted for secondchances," adds Kerr.
Bozeman now saysthat no recruit is worth risking what befell his program at Cal. He says hisreason for cheating was "self-induced pressure, feeling like I had to getthat kid. And I really didn't. I've told my staff [at Morgan State], 'Don'tever feel like you can't go on without any one player.' I'm not going to putmyself in that situation again."
Bozeman believeshis banishment was a blessing in some ways. Had he stayed in coaching, he neverwould have spent as much time with his son, Blake, 14, and daughter, Brianna,13. He also got to spend time with his father, Ira, who died last January fromlung cancer. "The only thing I'm sorry about is that my dad didn't live tosee this," he says of his new job.
As Bozeman seesit, he made a mistake, suffered the consequences and is now beginning anew. Butreminders of the past linger. One small irony is that Morgan State and Calshare a nickname, the Golden Bears.
"Here'ssomething else," Bozeman says. "Jelani Gardner's dad went to MorganState."
Back in the Game
Todd Bozeman isn't the only coach returning to thebench after a hiatus; these three men will also be blowing dust off theirclipboards.
Bobby Cremins ¬†¬†¬†¬†College ofCharleston ¬†¬†¬†¬†452--303
Cremins, 59, who retired in 2000 after 19 seasons atGeorgia Tech, got the Charleston job only after Winthrop coach Gregg Marshallreneged on a deal to take over there. "He pulled a Bobby Cremins," saidCremins, who once famously did the same thing to South Carolina.
Bob Huggins¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Kansas State¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†567--199
After 16 tumultuous seasons at Cincinnati (LIFE OFREILLY, page 152), Huggins, 53, was bought out of his contract in 2005 and satout last season. He already has a commitment from 6'9" Michael Beasley, oneof the top players in the class of '07.
Sidney Lowe¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†N.C. State¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†79--228
Lowe, 46, the point guard on the Wolfpack team thatupset Houston in the 1983 title game, has only coached in the NBA and has notbeen a head coach since 2002, when he called it quits after an 0--8 start withthe Memphis Grizzlies.
CROSS TO BEAR Bozeman hopes to fire up his new Bears, who are a far cry from his former Cal stars, such as Kidd (inset).
[See caption above.]