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As a UMBC alum, today is a proud day

I wasn’t sure what to expect when Ryan Odom was hired as UMBC’s head coach, but I’ve learned that he was absolutely the perfect fit for the program.

Nine years ago I was a freshman at UMBC and the beat writer for the student newspaper covering their team full of misfits and transfers that made an unexpected run to both an America East regular season championship and then the NCAA Tournament after winning the tournament crown.

The atmosphere in the RAC was electrifying that year. Every game, that was the place to be and the crowd followed to Binghamton University for the conference tournament and then Raleigh, North Carolina for their NCAA tournament game. Even though it was just one-and-done against the Georgetown Hoyas that year, it was an amazing accomplishment that UMBC, a sometimes forgotten about program in Baltimore, got that far.

I wasn’t at UMBC before that, so I couldn’t tell you what the atmosphere and hype around sports was, but my older brother, who was at UMBC for three years before I showed up, and the older writers at The Retriever Weekly all said there was little buzz when it was game day. The diehard sports fans would go, but that was about it.

In my infancy of transitioning from a sports fan to a sports writer I blindly thought that this run of success would never end. I assumed that UMBC figured it out for one year so they would be the team to beat forever.

I was wrong. UMBC did return to the America East championship game the following year, but it was with a losing record that season. Seven years of the program being unable to earn 10 wins then followed. Those losing seasons made me understand how truly special that NCAA Tournament run was.

As a sports writer, the success of the program ultimately doesn’t matter to me. I’m there to cover the games win or lose. But as a proud alum who wants to see UMBC be successful, I was ready for the team to turn around.

When UMBC hired Ryan Odom, I truthfully had no clue what to expect. I never saw him coach a game, but knew he was the son of a legendary coach who won national championships at Wake Forest. I was hopeful that he was going to be the guy to turn the program around.

I wasn’t surprised when UMBC got off to a strong start and went 7-1 to start the year. The schedule was favorable, but I didn’t expect the one-year turnaround the team had with how well they were playing. Odom turned out to be the absolute perfect fit for UMBC. His style of play was fast and exciting and his at the same time he’s always so calm and able to reel the team back in.

Even in a loss against a very physical and strong and deep Towson team, I was impressed with how UMBC hung with them. Then just two days later, the team had to be dead tired and worn down but won a track meet against the Citadel 120-111 in double overtime. That was the game when I knew something special was happening this season. The Retrievers would have lost that game every time over the past few years, but they hung in and gutted out an impressive victory.

Then they moved on to be more than just a competitive team in America East play.

It was exciting to be at UMBC games again. They atmosphere was more fun. It went from hoping for a win to believing they were going to win. Even when the results didn’t go UMBC’s way, they were hanging tough.

When UMBC announced they accepted a bid to the College Inside.com Tournament, it was a happy moment. I might be able to serve as an unbiased media source, but at the end of the day, I am still a fan and a Retriever. I was happy that UMBC’s turnaround got them something, even if it was a selection to a secondary consolation tournament.

I wanted to cover that game. I was there the first time they played a national postseason game, I endured the eight years of losing that followed, and wanted to be there when they played their second one. But I think it was better that Chris Jeter covered the game. It let me just be a fan, which I don’t get to be too often anymore. Getting the opportunity to just watch UMBC gut out a victory against a tough Fairfield Stags team, coached by the highly-respected Sydney Johnson, it was a proud moment as a Retriever alum. A moment that I believe is just another step in the program being rebuilt back to glory.

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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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