Randy Monroe, an assistant basketball coach at St. Joseph’s Prep, fired off a pregame text to Freeman Hrabowski on Friday night. Hrabowski is the president at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Monroe was the head men’s basketball coach at UMBC from 2004 to 2012.
Monroe wished Hrabowski and the team, a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, the best against the Virginia Cavaliers, the No. 1 seed of the whole field, in Friday’s first round.
Then Monroe watched as UMBC make history by becoming the first 16 seed in tournament history to beat a No. 1 seed.
“If you had asked me beforehand if I thought they were going to win,” Monroe said about the Retrievers, “I’d be lying to you if I had said that was going to happen. They did a nice job of moving the ball around and hitting their shots. They didn’t miss very many shots.”
Jarius Lyles, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, sparked the Retrievers Friday with 28 points, and 6-5 sophomore Arkel Lamar grabbed 10 rebounds in the 74-54 shocker.
“Once UMBC did a good job of spreading the floor and sharing the ball, Lyles was able to get into the lane and make some big shots,” Monroe said. “He’s a tough, tough player.”
Monroe, an assistant dean of students at St. Joseph’s Prep, spent 18 seasons in Catonsville, Md., including eight as the UMBC head coach. In 2007-08, Monroe guided the Retrievers to the American East Conference title and their first NCAA tournament appearance. As the No. 15 seed, they fell to No. 2 Georgetown, 66-47, in the first round of the Midwest Region. He resigned in October 2012 after going 85-159.
Monroe said he got to know Ryan Odom, UMBC’s second-year coach and a former assistant at Virginia Tech and UNC Charlotte, on the recruiting trail.
“I think Ryan did a tremendous job of keeping his emotions in check following the win over Virginia,” Monroe said. “I think the players will do a good job of following his lead going into the game against Kansas State” on Sunday.
Monroe said it is important for Odom and the players to savor the experience.
“When you’re a small school like UMBC, it’s so special to get the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to get another chance to be part of it.”