Just over a decade after resurrecting his career following the purgatory of a harsh NCAA punishment over recruiting violations, Morgan State basketball coach Todd Bozeman is now the winningest coach in school history. With a 77-75 win at South Carolina State on Jan. 23 Bozeman won his 167th game in the process passing legendary national championship winning coach Nat Frazier on the all-time victory list.
“I have tremendous respect for the Nat Frazier’s and other coaches at small colleges because I know what they go through,” Bozeman told the AFRO. “You try to show the people you are entrusted with how to move forward and represent the community and university.”
Bozeman made an immediate impact on Morgan when he stepped on campus in 2006. He inherited a program that was 4-26 the year before his arrival but led them to a 13-18 record and to the semifinals of the 2007 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament. That season proved to be the foundation his team would be built on.
The following year would mark the first of five consecutive trips to the MEAC Finals. He blended the perfect combination of major college transfers with some of Baltimore’s best high school talent to forge a team that would be a dominant force in the conference.
“My goal was to make it better when I leave here than when I got here,” said Bozeman. “Change isn’t easy but changing the mentality was important. I wasn’t going to settle for mediocrity we were always pushing to be great.”
When Boubacar Coley transferred from Xavier it opened the door for them to land difference makers such as Marquis Kately – a Pac-12 all rookie player from the University of California and San Francisco’s junior college prospect Jamar Smith who would become a MEAC Player of the Year.
However, it would ultimately be the hometown talent from Baltimore that made them champions and gave them credibility around the city. Heavily recruited major college players such as Reggie Holmes from St. Francis and Jermaine “Itchy” Bolden chose to take a chance on Bozeman’s vision for Morgan and they won back to back MEAC titles in 2009 and 2010.
Bozeman was a rising star during the early 1990’s while coaching at the University of California. His recruiting acumen and tactical ability earned him immediate credibility amongst major college coaches. Gym legend features tales of how University of Kentucky coach John Calipari says he learned as much about basketball from Bozeman as anyone. He attracted NBA players such as Jason Kidd to Berkeley in his meteoric rise to head coach of those Bears.
In 1993 Bozeman’s career hit the apex when he took California to the NCAA Sweet 16 after replacing Lou Campanelli 10 games into the season. At 29 Bozeman was the youngest coach in the history of the NCAA Tournament to lead a team to the second weekend after beating Duke which was also the first time a 12 seed beat a five seed to advance.
However, things went awry for Bozeman in 1996. After an NCAA investigation found he paid former recruit Jelani Gardner’s family $30,000 Bozeman was given the harshest penalty ever imposed. The show cause order meant Bozeman could not coach for eight years at any NCAA member school unless it either agreed to impose sanctions on him or convinced the NCAA that he had served his punishment.
“It’s probably more believing in a second chance and showing people you can come back from a mistake,” said Bozeman. “We deserve the right to sometimes to fall and get back up. Its more significant people to know you can dust yourself off pick yourself up again.”