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.”