Riverdale Baptist names Sam Caldwell as girls’ basketball coach

June 25, 2012

Riverdale Baptistpromoted Sam Caldwell from assistant to head girls’ basketball coach, and if the new hire has his way, that’s just about all that will change in the program.

Caldwell said the team’s ambitions will be the same as they were under his predecessor, Diane Richardson. The Crusaders finished atop the area rankings for the past four years.

“We still aspire to be the number one team in the country,” Caldwell, 42, said Monday afternoon as word of his hiring spread.

Richardson left the Upper Marlboro school earlier this month to become an assistant in the George Washington University women’s program.

Caldwell, an assistant for all three seasons of Richardson’s second stint at Riverdale, also was an assistant at Eleanor Roosevelt for most of that school’s run to five consecutive Maryland 4A titles from 2005 to ’09.

Caldwell, a Navy lieutenant no longer on active duty, filled in for Richardson in March when Riverdale won the National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep. At the time, Richardson was in Denver coaching in the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association High School all-America Game that included Riverdale star Jonquel Jones.

“The girls and everybody are used to him and we felt it was a good situation,” Riverdale Athletic Director Terry Terrill said. “We didn’t really open it up too much. We know Sam is a quality, knowledgeable coach and had proven success being able to handle the team when Diane wasn’t there, and she gave him a lot of freedom running practice sometimes, too. The tradition and success will continue.”

Even by Riverdale’s reload-not-rebuild standards, the Crusaders have many holes to fill after losing seven seniors bound for Division I programs, including All-Met Player of the Year Jones (Clemson), Jennie Simms (West Virginia) and Kelila Atkinson (Wake Forest).

Rising sophomore forward De’Janae Boykin is considered to be one of the top players nationally in her class, and junior guards Auteuonna Gilmore and Chloe Jackson also are highly regarded.

Caldwell said he did not expect any players who chose the school because of Richardson to leave the program. He added that the core of the coaching staff will remain intact.

“I think this was about as smooth a transition as we could have had,” Caldwell said. “We had such a great working relationship, so this has been pretty seamless.”

Riverdale Baptist again will play at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona and is trying to finalize trips to California, Florida and New York.

Caldwell would like to schedule the top teams in this area, including those from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, most of whom have declined the Crusaders’ overtures in recent seasons.

So maybe there is one aspect of the program that Caldwell would like to change after all.

“We’re not your enemy,” he said. “We’re just looking for people to play. If you were mad at us before, let’s get together and have a group hug and just play. It’s good for the kids.”

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