Posts Tagged ‘Jay Greene’

Coaches’ Q & A series: UMBC head coach Aki Thomas — preparing for the revolution

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
UMBC head coach Aki Thomas served as a master motivator during his first season at the helm at UMBC, now he must become a miracle worker rebuilding the roster (Photo by Sam Perkins)

UMBC head coach Aki Thomas . OBW file photo / Sam Perkins

To say the least, the past two years have been a helter-skelter whirlwind for UMBC head coach Aki Thomas.

On Oct. 10, 2012, UMBC’s then-head coach Randy Mornoe abruptly resigned after eight years running the show and nearly two decades on the coaching staff. At just 33 years of age, and only two days before the official start of practices, Thomas was thrown into the fire as the interim head coach of a team that had won a total of seven games over the past three season’s combined – a task akin to taking the helm of a sinking ship with a hole-riddled hull in the middle of a monsoon, and charged with sailing it out of the gale while simultaneously bailing water.

During that first season, the undermanned and over-matched Retrievers won seven regular season games, equaling their total from the previous three seasons combined. After Thomas had the interim tag removed and had his contract extended for one year at the end of the regular season, the Retrievers followed that up by out-fighting and out-toughing third-seeded Hartford in the America East Tournament for the program’s first tournament win since 2009.

Expectations were high for Thomas and the Retrievers heading in to the 2013-2014 season. With several highly-touted local recruits suiting up for the Retrievers, for the first time since 2008-2009 season — the year after UMBC went to the NCAAs in 2008 – there was noticeable buzz and excitement around the program. After showing some promise during the non-conference slate, Thomas was signed to a two-year extension by new athletic director Tim Hall.

However, while UMBC improved upon their win totals from the previous season, winning nine games and competing with several bigger programs during the non-conference (Duquesne and George Washington among them), there was a feeling of unmet expectations at season’s end: UMBC finished sixth in the standings, posting their best finish, best overall record and best conference record since 2008-2009, but the season ended in disaster and disappointment. Following the final game of the regular season, junior guard Joey Getz left the program.

A week later, just before the team headed to Albany for the conference tournament, senior forwards Brett Roseboro and Chase Plummer, along with freshman wing Charles Taylor, were suspended for what was deemed a “violation of team rules,” leaving the Retrievers with just seven players in uniform. What followed was an 86-56 bludgeoning at the hands of Albany (the tournament’s eventual champion) in the first round. After seeing freshman guard Bryan Harris leave the program halfway through the season, UMBC also saw forward David Kadiri (who never lived up to his preseason billing) transfer out of the program.

However, underneath the debris of disappointment – much of which could be attributed to the senior class, brought in under the previous head coach — if you dug a little bit, there were still several positive signs, chief among them point guard and league Rookie of the Year Rodney Elliot, whose freshman season (15 ppg, .452 FG%, 3.6 apg, 3.9 rpg) ranks among the best rookie years (statistically) of the past decade.

Beyond the individual play of Elliot, the team made huge strides defensively. After ranking dead last in the America East in defense in conference play in Monroe’s final three seasons, and eighth out of nine teams in 2012-2013, the team finished fifth in the league in Thomas’ first season without the interim tag.

Thomas, who played three seasons of college ball at BCS program Colorado, before using up his final year of eligibility at Howard, sat down with OBW to discuss the team’s struggles last season, their goals moving ahead, the development of last season’s recruits and a glimpse of this season’s newcomers. He also talked about the dynamics of overseeing a staff that includes a former player and several former peers of his, the juggling the demands of being a head coach with the responsibilities of being a father, how he decided to hang up his sneakers and join the coaching ranks, and the revolution that assistant John Zito seems to be training for. (more…)

OBW America East preseason predictions: #5 UMBC

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Malik Garner. OBW photo / Sam Perkins

Malik Garner. OBW photo / Sam Perkins

Projected starting lineup:

G – Quinton Jones, Sr., 6’ 185
G – Bryan Harris, R-Fr., 6’2” 180
F – Malik Garner, Soph., 6’6” 220
F – Devarick Houston, Jr., 6’7” 190
C – Brett Roseboro, R-Sr., 6’10” 240

UMBC won seven Division I games last year. At season’s end, they graduated their two best players – one of them, Ryan Cook, who stood out as the best player of the 2013 America East Tournament. Over the offseason, UMBC had four players transfer out of the program.

In two years, they may be the conference favorite.

So drastic has been the change sweeping through Catonsville, spearheaded by head coach Aki Thomas, along with assistants and former UMBC Retrievers Jay Greene and John Zito. Last year the coaching staff motivated a previously downtrodden roster of cast-offs, walk-ons and Division III level players to bulldoze heavily favored Hartford in the America East Tournament quarterfinals. UMBC then gave Vermont everything it could handle before falling valiantly in the final minutes of the semis.

The Retrievers rocketed to the top of the league in 2008, winning the America East going away to punch the program’s first ticket to the NCAA’s. In 2009, Greene and Darryl Proctor suited up one more time to carry UMBC back to the championship game. But over the next three years, the Retrievers nose-dived, as then head coach Randy Monroe ran players out of the program at a staggering rate while flying the team into the ground.

Last fall, Monroe was terminated after eight years at the helm. Thomas, his former assistant, was promoted to interim head coach. The overwhelming assumption at the start of the season was the Thomas was a dead man walking and would be summarily dismissed at seasons end.

But then he did the impossible: Thomas motivated a previously mentally and physically beaten roster to believe in itself again. As the season went on, UMBC began to gel and compete. Then they began to win, setting the stage for their inspired run to the semifinals.

Despite spending most of the season recruiting under the interim tag – a hanging guillotine – Thomas and his staff landed every single one of their targeted recruits over the offseason, revamping their roster with talent from the DC-Metro beltway.


It may sound crazy, but from purely a talent perspective, there may not be another team in the league with as deep and as diverse a roster as the Retrievers. There certainly isn’t a team with a longer or more athletic one.

UMBC has the potential to run out more than a half-dozen different, legitimate, lineups depending on the situation. They can go big, small, athletic, spread the floor on offense or create anarchy on defense. (more…)

Ernie Duncan commits to Vermont

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
Evansville, Ind., point guard Ernie Duncan committed to Vermont on Tuesday. Courtesy photo

Evansville, Ind., point guard Ernie Duncan committed to Vermont on Tuesday. Courtesy photo

Burlington, VT – Shortly after lunchtime early Tuesday afternoon, Vermont head coach John Becker’s phone rang. On the other end was Ernie Duncan, a rising-senior point guard from Evansville, Ind. Duncan was calling to tell Becker that he was committing to play for the Catamounts in the fall of 2014.

When the conversation ended, Becker hung up the phone having just landed the biggest recruit of his young coaching career.

Viewed as one of the top recruits in the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, Duncan had received scholarship offers from run-and-gun Florida Gulf Coast, Ball State, Milwaukee-Wisconsin and Toledo, and was being heavily courted by BCS programs Clemson, Tennessee, West Virginia and Boston College. Duncan had verbally committed to the University of Evansville as a sophomore before opening back up his recruiting.

But hype isn’t the reason that Duncan is such a game-changing talent; it’s his heart, hustle and hard work.

And, above all, it’s his game-changing court vision.

At 6’3”, Duncan has big-time size for a mid-major point guard and his game is even larger. An above-average on-ball defender, running the offense, he handles the rock with a vice-like grip and rarely turns the ball over and is extremely adept at breaking the press and capable of taking elite-level defenders off the dribble. (more…)

UMBC Lands a Whopper

Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Coolidge senior David Kadiri  (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Coolidge senior David Kadiri (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

(Catonsville, MD) – While coaches around the country packed their suitcases for the Final Four coaches’ convention, the staff at UMBC continued to pound the pavement, landing their second commitment in as many days and the biggest recruit (on paper) to sigh with the school in a very long time: 6’8” Shot-eraser, backboard-shaker and human-highlight reel David Kadiri.

A human-pogo-stick from the basketball-Mecca of Washington D.C., Kadiri was fresh leading Coolidge High to a pair of championships in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association and the inaugural D.C. State Athletic Association tournament, which pitted city public, private and charter schools.

A late bloomer who was just beginning to tap into his raw-talents as a senior, Kadiri had been offered – and heavily pursued – by Florida Gulf Coast University until the departure of head coach Andy Enfield to USC. Kadiri had also been offered by Duquesne of the Atlantic 10, America East-rival Stony Brook and North Carolina A&T, Gardner-Webb and Niagara. Several teams from higher-level schools reportedly made late-runs.

According to several college coaches and recruiters, Kadiri is known as a terrific athlete with a tremendous wingspan and a great motor, who is a monster on defense and dunks everything on offense. Kadiri already possesses outstanding timing and instincts blocking shots and pursuing rebounds and should make an impact from Day 1 on defense and on the glass. A raw-athlete on offense, Kadiri runs the floor extremely well for a big-man and is a monster finishing off alley-oops in transition, or skying over defenders for authoritative put-back dunks in traffic.

On his recruiting visit, during an open run with the Retrievers, Kadiri reportedly threw down nearly a dozen dunks over UMBC’s current roster.

Just weeks after having the interim tag removed following his first season at the helm, head coach Aki Thomas has now signed five incoming players, four of them – Kadiri, Bryan Harris, Will Darley and Charles Taylor Jr. – from the Baltimore/DC area.

On paper, Kadiri is easily the biggest recruiting coup during Thomas’ short tenure and the most hyped incoming freshman to land at UMBC in a very, very long time. (more…)

Housecleaning in Catonsville

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
UMBC head coach Aki Thomas served as a master motivator during his first season at the helm at UMBC, now he must become a miracle worker rebuilding the roster (Photo by Sam Perkins)

UMBC head coach Aki Thomas served as a master motivator during his first season at the helm at UMBC, now he must become a miracle worker rebuilding the roster (Photo by Sam Perkins)

(Catonsville, MD) – When UMBC’s season came to an end in heartbreaking but heart-warming fashion in the America East Tournament, the real work began for head coach Aki Thomas and his staff: rebuilding his roster from the rubble of a devastated and dilapidated program.

Thomas’ burdensome load may have been lightened, slightly, by jettisoning weight in the form of early departures of four returning players; sophomores Will Wise, Nate Basalyga, Jarrel Lane and Jordan Wejnert have all left the team.

In his first season at the helm, after being named the interim head coach two days before the start of practice, Thomas injected life into a program that had barely been clinging to life support. Two days before the start of the conference tournament, Thomas was official named the head coach – dropping the interim tag – and rewarded with a contract extension.

Two days later, the same Retrievers squad that had spent the last three seasons giving up by the first media timeout, out-worked, out-hustled and out-fought third-seeded Hartford to pull off a 69-62 upset in the Quarterfinal. A day later, running on heart, the sixth-seeded Retrievers showed more grit and guts in their 85-72 semifinal loss to Vermont than they had during their previous three seasons combined.

The final horn of the semifinals marked the end of the careers of seniors Ryan Cook – the team’s heart and soul, leading scorer, best player and hardest worker all rolled into in one –Brian Neller – a long-range sniper who, along with Cook, comprised the teams lone true shooters – and forward Adrian Satchell – who enjoyed a renaissance in his one-season under Thomas.

Now Thomas and assistant coaches (and former UMBC players) Jay Greene and John Zito were faced with the daunting task of trying to overhaul an undermanned – and drastically under talented – roster. (more…)

Dog eat dog: Terriers trounce Retrievers 83-48. BU moves to 7-1 in conference play, UMBC falls to 2-6

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

(Boston, MA) — UMBC guard Jerrell Lane drove down the court, pulled up from behind the arc, and fired up an uncontested 3. As the final buzzer sounded, Lane’s wounded duck struck nothing but the bottom of the backboard.

It was the Retrievers season in a nutshell.

Boston University romped to an 83-48 win Tuesday night over visiting UMBC in a laugher between two teams headed in polar-opposite directions.

The host Terriers hit on all-cylinders, posting season highs in points (83), rebounds (45), blocks (nine), and point-differential (35), while emptying the bench with roughly five minutes remaining in game time. The win moves Boston University to 7-1 in America East play, the program’s best start to the conference slate since the 2003-2004 season.

“I was very pleased with our overall effort, and we got significant contributions from a number of guys,” said Terriers head coach Joe Jones, who saw 11 different Terriers score.

For the Retrievers, who fall to 2-6 in conference play and 3-17 on the season, the wheels appear to have fallen off. UMBC has now lost two straight games by 35 or more points and has fallen in six of their last seven.

“[BU] certainly came out and pushed us around, and I don’t think we responded very well – it’s a little disappointing and a little discouraging,” said UMBC head coach Randy Monroe. “It’s college basketball; you have to compete… we didn’t do it.” (more…)

Walking Tall: UMBC falls 77-69, but walk-on Quentin Jones – the Retrievers’ smallest – shines.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

(New Britain, Conn.) – The University of Maryland-Baltimore County fell to host Central Connecticut State Tuesday night in a game that was far closer than the final score of 77-69. The Retrievers fell to 0-5 on the season, but continued to show promise.

Despite playing without three starters, including their best player (senior point guard Chris De La Rosa), the Retrievers battled until the final buzzer, controlled the paint, and displayed a heart and tenacity that was non-existent for all of last season. UMBC out-shot CCSU from the floor (.453 to .429) and from downtown (.467 to .353), while grabbing 13 offensive rebounds to the Blue Devils’ seven.

“I was really proud of our energy, of our tenacity, and of how we fought until the end,” said UMBC head coach Randy Monroe. “We’re really inexperienced, and we need to learn how to win a game – I thought at times we were playing not to lose – but I saw a lot of positives.” (more…)

Quick hitters

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

One-Bid Wonders writer Sam Perkins takes 5 minutes off from the back roads of the America East to check with some early thoughts on each team from around the conference.

The America East has already been one hell of a roller coaster ride,

Sam Perkins: Always watching over the "AE"

and we’re only a few games into the conference slate. We’ve already seen one lowly-regarded team in Hartford knock off a “contender” on its home court in Maine; another devastating injury to an explosive talent in New Hampshire forward Ferg Myrick; and an early-season battle between two of the top-teams in the conference in Vermont and Albany – a battle from which Vermont emerged as the clear “team to beat.” Here are my thoughts on each AE squad. (more…)

Week in review: Dec. 6 – 12

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

In case it wasn’t obvious earlier, the league is down. Forget about the basement; drill deeper. What do you call a league with one legitimately good team, a couple of decent contenders, and a giant mess down below? A lot of teams are scrambling to find solutions, which is causing a bit of a scramble in this week’s edition of our America East Power Rankings:

1. Vermont Catamounts (7-2)
Last week: Lost vs. BYU, 86-58, on Wednesday in Glens Falls, NY; Won vs. Marist, 75-67, on Sunday
This week: Idle
When Vermont played BYU, we found out that Jimmer Fredette can score. Not a surprise. But when Vermont hosted Marist, we learned that Brian Voelkel can score, and that is a surprise. Voelkel had a game-high and career-high 23 points – his first game scoring in double figures, let alone cracking 20 – and Vermont would need all of them to outlast a Marist team that had already lost eight games this year by double-figures and six games by 20+ points. Not exactly an impressive win, but UVM keeps on chugging along, and that alone is enough to sit atop these power rankings. (more…)

The smallest dog, with the largest fight

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Picture yourself wandering through the empty hallways of the Walter Brown athletic complex on one of Boston’s hot, sticky, sweltering summer nights. Through the stale, molasses thick air that hung in the dark corridors of the old building, you’d hear the sound of leather smacking against hardwood and the squeak of sneakers against floorboard.

The sounds of Matt Griffin.

Griffin was there, practicing in the empty and dimly-lit gym in a darkened building, breathing the stale, humid, heavy air. He set the tone for the Boston University Terriers. He laid the foundation for Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers to build his program.

“Nobody works harder than Matt Griffin,” is a quote that Chambers has uttered more times than he can count, and if you spend any time around the Terriers, you quickly learn it first-hand. (more…)