Kevin Broadus gathered his Morgan State basketball team for a meeting a day before the end of the 2019-20 regular season. The Bears’ head coach wanted his team to understand what they had done, what they can still do and mostly to make sure they keep doing it.
“We had this long meeting, our first meeting all year, just to sit down and talk about the year and what they expected,” Broadus said. “These guys won nine games last year. We’ve already won nine in conference this year. I asked those guys if they really believed they could do this.”
Broadus got a broad range of answers. Some said yes, some said they thought they’d win 20. The veteran coach paused.
“Honestly? I told them they had to evaluate themselves,” Broadus said. “I said a lot of you are the same players that won nine games last year and they all looked at me. I said, ‘No, really. How did you think you’d win more?’ Me? I didn’t have a number per se. I just wanted improvement.”
The first-year head coach certainly got that. The Bears have clawed to a 15-16 mark, 9-7 in the MEAC and enter the conference tournament as the No. 5 seed facing No. 4 Bethune-Cookman in Norfolk, Va., at the Scope Arena March 12. It’s the highest regular-season finish for Morgan State since 2016-17.
Broadus has awoken the Bears from hibernation, tapping into his team’s strong desire to reverse their fortunes.
“It started last season with some frustration, losing three in a row to Coppin,” Morgan State leading scorer Stanley Davis said. “I told my teammates coming back, ‘We can either lay down or fight through.'”
Davis, a 6-foot-5 guard from Chester, Pa., leads the team with 13.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. “Agent Zero” has been a steadying influence all season along with fellow senior David Syfax, one of the more versatile and useful players in the conference, and key returnees Sherwyn Devonish-Prince Jr., and Malik Miller. They were all pieces Broadus could put together to begin building his program.
“From Day One, our first meeting, Coach [Broadus] kept it real,” Davis said of Broadus becoming a Bear last May. “He made it more family here, asked for our input and that changed things. You could see the dedication and sacrifice since July. There’s a different work ethic.”
Besides notable stints as an assistant at Maryland (2017-2019) and Georgetown (2004-2007, 2011-2017), Broadus was the head coach at Binghamton for two seasons, including a 23-9 America East title run and a trip to the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
Broadus broke down his rebuilding process, now underway in northeast Baltimore.
“You evaluate the talent, that’s the first thing, comparative to the talent in the league,” he said. “There’s a thing you have to distinguish — who can help you and who can’t.”
Fortunately, Broadus had made a name for himself in the basketball business as an exemplary evaluator of talent, not only at Maryland, Georgetown and Binghamton, but also all over the metro area, with the Washington, D.C., native mostly staying close to his roundball roots.
“Recruiting is all about building relationships and I’ve done that at Maryland, Georgetown, GW, AU, Bowie State, UDC, all over,” he said. “Now I’m building relationships at Morgan State for now and for the future. You have to evaluate everything. It helps to have some coaches that think like you do, but you also want some that don’t think like you. You have to look at the whole picture.”
Part of the process was evaluating the Bears’ athletic program, too, to make sure the goals of the coach and school aligned. It helped that Broadus was coming to work for athletic director Dr. Edward Scott, who was an associate AD at Binghamton when Broadus was there.
Broadus had also been linked to the Howard head job, but Morgan State proved a better fit, the coach knowing what he was getting in Scott, and Scott knowing what he was getting in Broadus. The coach’s tenure ended prematurely at Binghamton with a $1.2 million buyout to settle his discrimination suit against the university after a variety of off-court issues were uncovered regarding the program.
Obviously, the location was enticing to Broadus, as was following in the footsteps of coaches who were successful at Morgan in the past, including Nathaniel Frazier (1971-1977, 1985-1989) and Todd Bozeman (2006-2019).
“Geographically, it’s a great location, close to D.C., where I’m from, and the history of the program from when Coach Frazier was here, Coach Bozeman, they had done some good things. I just thought it could be a good fit,” Broadus said.
Broadus has fit like a comfortable pair of shoes long lost in the back of the closet. In all honesty — and that’s a big component of the process of building trust and building a winner — Broadus thinks the Bears could already have 19 victories.
“We’ve lost a couple we should have won, but we’ve probably won a couple we should have lost,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Am I satisfied? No, but I’m proud of the way the guys have responded. And we still have a chance to get more wins.”
Whether that happens or not, Broadus has the Bears heading in the right direction. He called that late season meeting to keep that progress on track. “It’s about managing expectations and egos,” he laughed. “Everybody thinks they should play more. We play a lot of people, but we have no choice. We have to see what we have for the future.”
To make things more complex, Morgan State mixed in seven newcomers, including second-leading scorer, 6-foot-9 junior Troy Baxter, a transfer from Florida Gulf Coast; 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior Jamar Brown, a transfer from Wagner, and 6-foot-8 Dutch forward Lagio Grantsaan, all of whom are helping.
As for bringing so many disparate parts together. Broadus sounds like a crusty old coach brushing aside the notion that it’s difficult.
“If you want to play an individual sport, go play tennis or box or wrestle,” Broadus said. “We’re trying to win so cheer for your teammates as much as you cheer for yourself.”
Broadus tells his team he has been around a long time, and the guys he has seen make it to the NBA aren’t always the most talented.
“In the NBA, overseas, whatever, those guys want winners. They don’t want losers. Losers get cut fast,” Broadus said. “Being a loser and scoring 20 points a game doesn’t necessarily make you an NBA player. Ball hogs, guys that are locker room cancer, they don’t want that. You have to be a good teammate to get to the next level, and that’s what we’re trying to teach these guys.”
Broadus, a longtime assistant, admits making his reputation as a head coach — a winning head coach — is important to him, too.
“Your record doesn’t indicate who you are as a person, but it indicates your success as a leader, and that’s important,” Broadus said. “You don’t want to be a failure as a leader and that’s tough because you don’t want to sacrifice yourself for your record.
“Sometimes you have to sit guys for whatever reason, and you may lose a game. But you’re building a program, and these guys will know now not to do X, Y and Z again.”
Morgan State has only had six winning campaigns in 37 years. If the process is sometimes painful, it’s just something the program must, well, Bear.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Johnson/Morgan State Athletics