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Aki Thomas let go by UMBC

Aki Thomas was a well-liked and well-respected guy for nearly 10 years at UMBC, but the wins never came.

Aki Thomas was a well-liked and well-respected guy for nearly 10 years at UMBC, but the wins never came.

Aki Thomas has been let go as the head coach of the UMBC men’s basketball program. Thomas spent four seasons as the team’s head coach and failed to reach 10 wins in any of them, and only won one America East Tournament game. Thomas was a well-liked and well-respected member of the UMBC Athletic Department for nearly 10 years and though he has been praised for his recruiting ability, the wins did not come for the Retrievers.

“I appreciate the contributions that Aki Thomas and his staff have made to our program,” UMBC Director of Athletics Tim Hall said. “Coach Thomas represented UMBC with a positive attitude and outstanding values during his entire tenure at UMBC. He is an exceptional person, and I wish him success in his future endeavors.”

This seemed like the only out-come there could have been when he was officially hired to be UMBC’s head coach three years ago.

Thomas joined UMBC’s program as an assistant coach under Randy Monroe in 2007 and was a part of the Retrievers’ 2008 America East Championship team and NCAA Tournament trip, but Monroe was never able to capitalize on the team’s championship and they quickly plummeted down the standings and in his final three years — beginning just two years after the team’s 24-9 championship season — UMBC went only 13-77 in that span.

Two days before the first day of practice for the 2012 season, Monroe resigned as head coach at UMBC. Clearly, the timing made it so the program would have no choice but to allow Thomas an opportunity to serve as the interim head coach for the year.

Thomas went only 7-22 as interim coach before he was officially given a permanent position. It was more wins than the team has in any of the three previous seasons, but the programs did not appear to put much effort into a coaching search — perhaps because they were preparing for the retirement of their long-time athletic director Dr. Charles Brown, or maybe because they were focused on getting plans together for their new $90 million events center that is scheduled to open its doors for the 2017-2018 season — instead sticking with a guy they knew and liked and were hopeful could succeed.

It just did not work out. Thomas went 29-95 over four years and just 15-51 in conference play. The team was regularly near the bottom of the conference standings and their defense, no matter what adjustments or coaching hires he made, never got better.

Thomas was one of the youngest head coaches in the country at the time, at only 33-years-old, and is still at 36-years-old pretty young. He could be an assistant for the next 10 years and still have a long career as a head coach ahead of him.

The basketball hire will be the first coaching hire for Athletic Director Tim Hall, who arrived at UMBC in July, 2013. One of the first things Hall did at UMKC (University Missouri-Kansas City) after being hired in February, 2007, was hiring Matt Brown as the program’s head coach. Brown went only 64-122 in six seasons with the Kangaroos, but UMBC does have great selling points for a coach; including close proximity to one of the nation’s top private school basketball league’s and multiple metropolitan areas that are rich with basketball talent, tremendous academics, and a brand new arena coming.

Early names floating around as candidates to be Thomas’ replacement are Boston College assistant Scott Spinelli, who excelled as a recruiting coordinator at Maryland prior to joining the Eagles. He also has ties to the America East Conference, graduating from and playing for former America East program Boston U in 1989 (Boston U was an inaugural member of the America East conference in it’s founding in 1979 until they left for the Patriot League in 2013). A dark-horse candidate might be Division III Skidmore College coach Joe Burke. Burke has taken the Thoroughbreds to four NCAA Tournaments in six years. Prior to that he was an assistant at Naval Academy from 2004 to 2010.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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