Morgan State coach Bozeman seeks another chance

Todd Bozeman believes it’s about time that his name be in the
mix for high-profile coaching jobs around the country.

Yet the basketball coach at mid-major Morgan State realizes some
people might never forgive his tumultuous tenure at California in
the 1990s that included serious recruiting violations – even if now
he’s having notable success following an eight-year ban by the
NCAA.

Bozeman got his second chance at Morgan State, and he has
transformed the program at the tiny, Baltimore-based school. He
just led the Bears to their second straight NCAA tournament
appearance in his fourth season. The 15th-seeded Morgan State
squad, winners of three straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
regular-season crowns, lost 77-50 in the first round to West
Virginia.

“If you take a blind resume and took the name off the top of it
and just put down the resume, then it’d be something I think people
would jump at,” he said of his credentials.

While Bozeman insists he’s not necessarily looking to
immediately leave Morgan State – “I have a good team coming back”
– he does want to be considered for top positions.

“I’m not looking, but in the profession you always want
opportunities to move. I’ve said this before that I apologized in
the past and don’t feel I need to apologize anymore,” Bozeman said
in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve paid my
dues. I think more people have moved on from it than the general
population thinks. But obviously not everybody has moved on from
it, and I’ve accepted that.

“Not everyone voted for the president. Not everybody thinks
Michael Jordan is the best player ever.”

The Bears won at Arkansas this season for the program’s first
victory over a Southeastern Conference team in school history. The
preseason also featured games with Baylor, Louisville and
Minnesota. Bozeman also has beaten DePaul, Marshall and Maryland
during his tenure.

In his first season, the Bears went 13-18 after finishing 4-26
the previous year.

“People can say you’re winning in a league that’s a lower-rated
league. I can only play the teams we’re scheduled to play in our
league,” he said. “We’ve had wins in our non-conference
schedule.”

While Bozeman’s strides at Morgan State are significant, there
are still plenty who remember him for his problems while he was
Cal’s coach for 3 1/2 years, starting in the middle of the 1993
campaign.

Most notable was his paying $30,000 to the family of recruit
Jelani Gardner to persuade him to come to Cal. Bozeman also was
criticized for undermining the authority of then-head coach Lou
Campanelli, the man he replaced.

Bozeman, who recruited the likes of future NBA stars Jason Kidd
and Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Cal, was pushed out in August 1996 at
age 32 and with a 63-35 record at the school.

After serving the eight-year “show cause” probation period for
NCAA violations, Bozeman landed the job at Morgan State 10 years
after his rocky departure from Cal.

“Some people say Campanelli’s situation is a factor from when I
took over at Cal in ’92-’93. This is 2010,” Bozeman said.
“Nothing has ever been proven from that. I took responsibility for
the NCAA deal, the violation. You’d think you pay your dues and
move on. I talk about it even now, I don’t dodge any questions. I
don’t preface any interview that I won’t talk about this, that or
the other. I don’t have anything to hide. I’ve been pretty direct
about it.”

With the 46-year-old Bozeman under contract at Morgan State, he
can’t apply for jobs but other schools can contact Morgan State for
permission to interview him. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Some athletic directors at bigger programs may fear the scrutiny
that would come with hiring Bozeman.

“That’s hard for me to take. I’ve paid my dues for the years I
sat out,” he said. “This is supposed to be the country of second
chances. Being able to show people you can make a mistake, you have
to pay the consequences for it, but you can come back. It’s a
unique situation because it’s the harshest penalty any coach has
ever received and a lot of people didn’t think I’d come back.”

Bozeman said it was only him and his late father, Ira, who truly
thought he would get another college coaching job.

“The only two I knew of,” he said. Even friends “tried to
encourage me to do something different.” When he told them
repeatedly he planned to coach again “they would change the
subject.”

Bozeman said he has received tremendous support from strangers
who have contacted him and wished him well in his comeback. After
his dismissal at Cal, he returned to his native Washington, D.C.,
where he coached in the AAU ranks, ran camps and volunteered.

When he was hired at Morgan State, Bozeman promised the school’s
president he would take the team to its first NCAA tournament.
After a NIT berth in his second season, Bozeman delivered last
March. The Bears lost in the first round to Oklahoma.

“That was coming through on my part of the deal. Some people
realize how difficult that is at this level, but I don’t think
everyone realizes it,” Bozeman said. “It’s really been changing
the attitude, just changing the culture, taking a grab your lunch
pail type of view.”