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Life has a second act for Morgan State coach

He made the mistake of paying $30,000 to the parents of a player while he was coaching at Cal.

He served the full duration of the eight-year sanction and then some, spending 10 years away from the college game.

And now, for the second straight year, Todd Bozeman has Morgan State back in the NCAA Tournament and hoping his story serves as a tale of contrition and perseverance.

"I didn't really think that I would have to wait out the whole sanction, but I did, and I kept my mouth shut," Bozeman said Thursday. "I didn't complain. I admitted to my faults. I didn't talk about other schools. I didn't compare myself to other coaches. I didn't say, 'Well, this guy does this, that, this and the third.' I didn't do that. And I did that for a reason. Because I wanted to be able to be an example for kids down the line."

While Bozeman was banned from the college game, he was never far from a court. He coached AAU and helped out with youth and girls teams.

"I went from coaching a Pac-10 team to coaching a 9-and-under to have a parent tell me how to coach the team," he said, laughing. "I didn't say anything. I just said, 'OK, I'll take that into consideration.'

"I had close friends that said, 'Hey, look dude, do something else. Try something else. . . . I'm not that guy you can tell I can't do something. I'm going to put the time into it and I'm going to keep . . . my nose to the grind and, you know, I just believe this is a country that you can do that."

A new opportunity finally arose at Morgan State, a program perennially in the dumps before his arrival.

"Now, obviously I'm not as attractive as Martha Stewart," Bozeman said. "But she had her thing and is back. And Steve Jobs from Apple had his deal and he's back. You just want to be able to continue to move forward now. So that's all I ask."

***

When Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf all turned pro, Syracuse's goals never wavered. After all, this is a perennial top 25 program.

"Our main focus was trying to get back to where we are at right now, the NCAA Tournament," Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine said. "We lost three of our main starters and we knew Andy [Rautins] had to come in and play big roles in this year's team.

"Our main focus was just working out and getting better, getting stronger in the offseason and also becoming vocal leaders in this team because we lost so much firepower last year."

But did they think they would be this good?

"Certainly it hurts to lose your top three scorers," Rautins said. "But at the same time it made us into a better team. We have a lot of chemistry this year. Everybody is always on the same page regardless of what five guys are on the floor."

***

Being only a 2 1/2 -hour drive away, Syracuse expects a huge turnout of Orange fans.

"It's great to play in front of your hometown crowd," Jardine said. "Cuse Nation is going to be out. Buffalo being so close to Syracuse. . . . It's going to be like a home game for us."

Meanwhile, Vermont is used to playing on the road, where it is 12-6, including a win over the University at Buffalo in November. The win over the Bulls was part of string of 10 consecutive road games for the Catamounts.

"We always pride ourselves on playing a great non-conference schedule," Vermont coach Mike Lonergan said. "We travel a lot. The travel here was easy because we got to take a plane and charter, which is a lot of fun for our guys. But I don't think we have played in any atmosphere like that we'll see [Friday] night."

***

Murray State's first-round upset of Vanderbilt on Thursday had special meaning to Bozeman. The Racers are coached by Billy Kennedy, an assistant to Bozeman at Cal.

"BK is definitely one of my closest friends," Bozeman said. "I love the guy. . . . He's done a great job at Murray State."

***

David Stockton, the son of Hall of Fame Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton, followed in his father's footsteps and attends Gonzaga. The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Stockton is sitting out this season as a redshirt freshman.

He is the fourth athlete from the Stockton family to attend the school.

His mother, Nada, played volleyball and his great-grandfather, Houston Stockton, played halfback for the Zags from 1922-24.

"He looks like he's 12 years old, but he's a tough little guy," said Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti.

David Stockton isn't the only famous son in the subregional. The West Virginia roster boasts Jonnie West, son of ex-Mountaineers legend and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West. And, of course, Andy Rautins is a star at Syracuse just as his father, Leo, was during the 1980s.

***

Morgan State redshirt freshman Anthony Anderson, who has been undergoing treatment for leukemia, remained in Baltimore. Anderson had hoped to accompany the Bears if they made the NCAAs.

"It was a disappointment for us because we really wanted to get him here and bring him here, give him the opportunity to watch us play basketball," senior guard Troy Smith said. "For it not to happen, it's kind of like, we still have to do what we need to do."

***

Buffalo holds a special place in Missouri coach Mike Anderson's heart. A trip here during Labor Day weekend marked the first step in a memorable 2008-09 season for his Tigers, who set a school record with 31 wins and advanced to the Elite Eight.

The Tigers flew to Buffalo and took a bus to Niagara Falls, Ont., where they took part in a three-game exhibition tour and even found time, as Anderson said, to "put on the ponchos" and ride the Maid of the Mist. That Missouri team had five freshmen and two junior college transfers on the roster, so the trip allowed all returning players to bond with the newcomers.

"We had a lot of young guys on that team, so that trip was huge for us as far as getting a chance to play together in a game situation," said senior point guard Zaire Taylor. "It's one thing to play in practice, but to be in the heat of a game was important because we were able to learn each other's playing style and just get comfortable with new people on the floor."

The Tigers went into that season picked to finish seventh in the Big 12. They went on to capture the tournament championship, which ignited their stunning postseason run.

e-mail: sports@buffnews.com

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