As the 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament enters the Sweet 16, March Madness has already featured a number of major upsets. Perhaps the greatest—not just this year, but in the history of the tournament—was University of Maryland, Baltimore County's victory over top-ranked Virginia in the first round. Led by head coach and former Hampden-Sydney star Ryan Odom '96, UMBC made history as the only 16-seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. Griff Aldrich '96, a fellow Tiger basketball standout, is also a key member of the UMBC coaching staff, serving as director of recruitment and program development. On March 22, Longwood University announced Aldrich as their new men's basketball head coach.
UMBC's victory has generated considerable buzz around Odom and his hard work and influential coaching style. Below are just a few examples of the praise Ryan Odom has garnered in NCAA tournament coverage:
"He's done an incredible job," said ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, who gave Odom his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at South Florida and later hired him as an assistant at Virginia Tech. "He took a group of players and got them to believe. That's the hardest thing to do. When people are used to losing, creating a vision and getting people to buy in to a vision and share the vision and trust the vision and trust you as a new coach ... is not easy. But he's genuine. He's sincere. He's believable."
In one sentence, junior guard Ishmail Jabbie indicated just how quickly Ryan Odom got UMBC back on the right track, "From day one, he came in and changed the culture."
Odom's calm demeanor and genuine personality allow his team to bounce back from adversity and believe in themselves when outside factors could lead them to do otherwise.
"I knew he was going to do it," said UMBC athletics director Tim Hall, who hired Odom in 2016. "I just didn't know he was going to do it this fast."
"What I think about is the kids being told, 'You can't do this or you can't do that,' Odom said. "Whether it's in sports or outside sports. What our kids accomplished should be a lesson to everybody that, yeah, you can do it."
The Retrievers connected with people because of who they were, Odom told his guys, not just what they did. In the lead-up to tip, he had preached the same two philosophies: effort and connection. Work hard, stay close. That resonated well beyond the court.
Good Men, Good Citizens, Great Coaches (The Record of Hampden-Sydney College)
But a winning record only matters if it has been achieved the right way. "Your character defines who you are, and you can't be willing to sacrifice your integrity for short-term gains," Odom says.