Bozeman Gives Credit To Time Served

Todd Bozeman led Cal to an upset of Duke in the NCAA Tournament when he was just 29, but three years later, he was banned from coaching for eight seasons because of recruiting violations.
Todd Bozeman led Cal to an upset of Duke in the NCAA Tournament when he was just 29, but three years later, he was banned from coaching for eight seasons because of recruiting violations. (File - The Washington Post)

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By Mike Wise
Friday, December 22, 2006

Near the end of "The Shawshank Redemption," a gray-flecked Morgan Freeman tells the parole board he wishes he could have a conversation with the young man who put him behind bars for most of his life. He wishes he could fix that angry, impulsive kid before prison turned him into an old man.

Todd Bozeman was asked if he could relate to the movie character. He poked at his eggs, gazing around the Morgan State University cafeteria.

"I'm not any different," the Bears' men's basketball coach finally said. "I wish I could look back at the young man in me and tell him what I know now. I would use the two words my dad used: 'Be patient.'

"Because if I was patient, I would have waited it out. I'm a thorough recruiter. I covered all the bases. I would've got the kid anyway."

Bozeman's first season opener since 1995 was the week before. His punishment for paying the family of a recruit at California, which turned out to be two years longer than the NCAA mandated, had been fulfilled.

Starting over in north Baltimore at age 43, Bozeman is no longer the wunderkind coach of Jason Kidd and that breakneck Cal team that stunned Mike Krzyzewski and Duke in the 1993 NCAA tournament. Remember? Kidd outdueled Bobby Hurley in an heirloom, and suddenly a 29-year-old neophyte in the business became the youngest coach ever to lead his team to the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

About the only thing more stratospheric than Bozeman's rise was his fall. He came down hard.

Accused of making $30,000 in payments to the parents of Jelani Gardner, Bozeman also was cited for denying the NCAA violations and providing false and misleading information during the initial investigation. The NCAA sanctioned him for eight years, under something called a "show-cause" ban.

It meant that any school wanting to hire Bozeman had to appeal to the NCAA infractions committee, to "show cause or reason" why he should be hired. Industry-wise, the ban was viewed as a life sentence, the death of a vibrant young coach's career. The guy perceived as one of the monsters ruining the game was supposed to crawl embarrassingly back into the cave whence college basketball crooks came.

But something amazing happened to Todd Bozeman after he went down. He got a life outside basketball.

He slowed down. He began joining his wife and children, Blake and Brianna, on vacation instead of sending them alone.

"I spent more time with my children," he said. "I spent more time with my dad. I actually take vacations now. I was a workaholic then. I worked nonstop. And when you do that, you put yourself in situations where work becomes life and death. And it's not.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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