There is no mistaking that the UMBC Retrievers men’s basketball team is a reflection of its head coach. Easygoing, affable and caring outside the lines, the Retriever mentor is passionate and focused while on the hardwood.
Many times throughout his playing and coaching career, Randy Monroe was told he couldn’t do something. Retriever fans are very thankful that he continues to prove that the critics don’t appreciate what someone with his determination and vision can accomplish.
In March of 2008, Coach Monroe brought UMBC basketball and the university to heights it could only imagine previously. He molded a high-character group of veterans, transfers and younger players into the best team in the history of Retriever basketball. The Retrievers won a school-record 24 games, captured the America East Conference regular season and tournament titles and competed in the school’s first NCAA Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
The Philadelphia, Pa. native was named 2008 America East Conference Coach of the Year and was also one of 10 finalists across the nation for the Hugh Durham Award, which went to former Drake bench boss Keno Davis. He was rewarded with a six-year contract extension through the 2013-14 season. The impact of the program’s success was felt inside and outside Hilltop Circle as the entire UMBC and surrounding communities, alumni, and countless other supporters rejoiced and celebrated with the Retrievers.
“I am ecstatic about this opportunity that Dr. Brown, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Hrabowski have given me,” Monroe said. “I feel very fortunate and truly appreciate what the group of young men we’ve had in our program have been able to accomplish.”
“Randy Monroe has been with us for a long time as an assistant coach and the last four years as a head coach,” Dr. Brown said. “By all accounts, he has done an outstanding job and is deserving of this contract extension. He has delivered in a big way and captured the spirit and enthusiasm of the campus to an extent we have never seen before. We hope to continue this momentum and expand upon our current success.”
In 2008-09, Randy Monroe, age 46, enters his fifth season as bench boss at UMBC and begins his 15th year as part of the men’s basketball program. He is now 57-66 in four seasons at UMBC. The trip to the NCAA Tournament was his fourth as a coach, as La Salle earned three bids during Monroe’s tenure as an assistant under Speedy Morris from 1988-93.
He was promoted to head men's basketball coach at UMBC on March 23, 2004, after serving as acting head coach since March 2. He coached the Retrievers in their 65-59 first-round loss to Stony Brook in the America East Conference Tournament. Tom Sullivan resigned as head basketball coach on March 11, 2004 In Monroe’s first season as a head coach, the Retrievers defeated local rivals Navy, Towson and Loyola, rallying from late second-half deficits in wins over the Midshipmen and Greyhounds. UMBC capped its non-league slate with a stunning road win at Delaware, handing the Blue Hens a rare home loss. After UMBC closed the regular season with a win over Hartford, Coach Monroe guided the squad to its first-ever America East Tournament win, a 78-73 triumph over New Hampshire, before the season ended less than 24 hours later in a setback to Vermont. In 2005-06, UMBC was a difficult team to play against. The Retrievers recorded wins over Colonial Athletic Association members Delaware and William & Mary and threw a scare into Virginia in non-conference play. In America East action, UMBC earned first-time league wins over Boston University and defending champion Vermont and knocked off second-place Binghamton. The Retrievers won an America East Tournament game against Stony Brook before ending the season with a quarterfinal loss to eventual league champion Albany.
In 2007-08, UMBC continued its climb, first posting a road win at Atlantic 10 member LaSalle, then finishing in the top half of the America East Conference (T-4th) for the first time ever. The Retrievers made their first appearance in the league semifinals before falling in an inspired effort against Vermont. All of those building blocks set the stage for the madness of 2008-09.
Monroe had been an assistant coach at UMBC since the 1994-95 season, a span of 10 years. He was hired by Earl Hawkins and retained when Coach Sullivan took over the following season. "This is a tremendous opportunity; an opportunity most assistant coaches live for," Monroe said upon his hiring. "I have been an assistant coach for 20 years, and perhaps some people in that position would have been upset not to get an opportunity earlier. The way I look at it, I gained a tremendous amount of experience and learned so much about the development of young people throughout the years. I believe that experience will serve me well as a head basketball coach.” In 2003, many people around the country learned what East Coast basketball fans have known for a long time when the affable native of Philadelphia was one of 27 Division I coaches (all sports) nationally to receive AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year honors. The winners were selected from a field of more than 350,000 coaches across the nation. The criteria in the second annual AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year program allowed for coaches to win based on longevity, expertise, contributions to the school and community and special achievements throughout their careers.
Monroe had previously served as assistant coach at Vanderbilt University (1993-94), LaSalle University (1988-1993) and his alma mater, Cheyney University (1985-87). During his tenure at Vanderbilt, the Commodores finished the 1993-94 season at 20-12 and were 1994 National Invitational Tournament finalists. While at LaSalle, the Explorers compiled a record of 119-39, won three Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titles and gained three NCAA Tournament berths and one NIT bid. Cheyney averaged 24 wins per season in Monroe's two campaigns, and in 1986, was the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Champions, the Eastern Regional Champions and participants in the NCAA Division II Final Four in Springfield, Mass. In 1987-88, he assisted Dave "Lefty" Ervin at the William Penn Charter School, where the Quakers tied for the league title with a 20-10 record.
Monroe had an excellent playing career at Philadelphia University and Cheyney University. In 1982, he was named one of the top freshmen on the East Coast by Eastern Basketball Magazine. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree (Magna Cum Laude) in recreation administration from Cheyney in 1987. Monroe was inducted into the Cheyney University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
The basketball program has also experienced great success in the classroom. In 2004-05, the program received “top honors” in the NCAA’s Academic progress report and it currently ranks in the 70th-80th percentile amongst the 337 Division I programs in the nation. Brian Hodges became the first graduate student to compete at UMBC during the Division I era after earning his undergraduate degree in three years.
“I am most proud of the young men that have come into this program and have learned how to prepare for life after UMBC,” Monroe said. “We have had stellar leadership during my time and those players have shared their knowledge and experiences with the younger players. It was so gratifying to have so many of them come back and thank us for putting the program on the map. I would like to thank them.”
The Monroe File
Year-by-Year Head Coaching Record
YEAR RECORD America East SCHOOL
2003-04 0-1 (.000) N/A UMBC
2004-05 11-18 (.379) 5-13 (9th) UMBC
2005-06 10-19 (.345) 5-11 (8th) UMBC
2006-07 12-19 (.387) 7-9 (T-4th) UMBC
2007-08 24-9 (.727) 13-3 (1st) UMBC
CAREER 57-66 (.407) 30-36 Four+ Seasons
2004-Present Head Men’s Basketball Coach, UMBC (57-66)
1994-2004 Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, UMBC (119-160)
1993-94 Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Vanderbilt (20-12)*
1988-93 Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, La Salle (119-39)^
1985-87 Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, Cheyney (48-14)
*NIT Finalists ^Three NCAA Tournament bids
March 2008 Named America East Coach of the Year
One of ten finalists for Hugh Durham Award
(National Coach of the Year)
September 2005 Inducted into Cheyney University Hall of Fame
March 2003 AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year March
1982 Named one of nation’s top freshmen, Eastern Basketball Magazine
Birthdate: April 22, 1962
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
High School: Roman Catholic
College: Cheyney (Pa.) University ’87