- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2011

He can X-and-O with the nation’s best hoops tacticians. He can recruit against anyone in the country. He can use his homegrown roots and local connections to dominate the D.C. area’s fertile hotbed. The only thing Todd Bozeman can’t do is give big-time athletic directors like Maryland’s Kevin Anderson the courage to hire him.

Which begs the question: What are they so afraid of?

There’d be a trip down memory lane, but so what? There’s nothing new to the story. Everyone knows Bozeman resigned as California’s coach in 1996 after he admitted paying $30,000 to a player’s parents so they could travel to games. Everyone knows the NCAA slapped him with a “show-cause” penalty that essentially banned him from coaching for eight years. And everyone knows bringing him aboard would be considered controversial and unthinkable in some quarters.

But the violation happened 15 years ago. Bozeman has paid his debt and proved himself at Morgan State, leading the Bears to first-place finishes, 20-plus victories and postseason tournaments in three of his five seasons. He won the 2009 Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year Award, and he’s a three-time winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Award (2008 to 2010).

His resume should make him a candidate for every major job that opens. Especially an opening in his backyard, at a program the D.C. native would happily lead for 20 years without thoughts of leaving. A program with powerhouse potential that he is uniquely qualified to maximize.

Yet, undoubtedly, there was fear of what people might say.

Todd’s a top basketball guy, and he knows his stuff,” former CBS analyst Billy Packer said Monday afternoon on “The Mike Wise Show,” before Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon reportedly was offered the job and leaning toward accepting it. “But you’re the University of Maryland, and maybe you go in the direction where you don’t have to answer that question.”

Anderson shouldn’t have worried about what anyone would say, think or ask. Having been rejected by Sean Miller, Mike Brey and Jay Wright - coaches who would have provided the profile and splash Anderson seeks - he should have looked north to Baltimore, not west to College Station, Texas.

Bozeman was the best coach for the job. He just needed Anderson to grant him a baggage check. At age 47, he finally should have been relieved of the dirty laundry he accumulated at age 29.

There’s no doubting his ability. Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart are hotshots now, but Bozeman is the youngest coach to reach the Sweet 16. In his nine years, his teams have played in the NCAA tournament five times and the NIT once. He recruited future NBA stars Jason Kidd and Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Cal, along with Lamond Murray, Sean Marks, Ed Gray and Michael Stewart.

Another of Bozeman’s best players could have excelled in the NBA, but Tony Gonzalez opted to become an NFL tight end who is headed to the football Hall of Fame.

The level of talent available to Morgan State isn’t the same, but his knack for attracting the best hasn’t changed. Bozeman has recruited two MEAC Players of the Year, two MEAC Defensive Players of the Year and a MEAC Rookie of the Year. His relationship with youth basketball groups such as D.C. Assault - a top AAU program where he was an assistant coach during his sabbatical - makes him well-positioned to sign more of the local stars who dot rosters nationwide.

That association might have bothered some folks as much as his past transgressions. Gary Williams was reluctant to deal with AAU types, often characterized as the seamy side of recruiting. But if Coach K and Roy Williams can do it, so can the next Maryland coach.

And with Bozeman’s history, it’s a good bet he wouldn’t risk everything by cheating again.

If Maryland’s alumni and boosters had a problem with Bozeman, here’s what Anderson should have said:

Todd is an excellent coach and recruiter who committed a violation 15 years ago but ‘served his time.’ He learned his lesson, rehabilitated himself and has been clean ever since. This hire shows that the University of Maryland believes in redemption and second chances. Todd’s hard work and perseverance have paid off, and he’ll do a tremendous job as our next coach.”

Whether Bozeman would have been a “brave” choice is irrelevant.

But he definitely would have been a smart choice.