Welcome to history, Ryan Odom.
The UMBC men’s basketball coach took the sports-watching world by surprise on Friday night as the Retrievers became the first-ever No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament. UMBC captured a 74-54 victory and, quite suddenly, found themselves as the most famous team in college basketball history.
Odom, who was actually a ballboy for UVA when he was a kid, couldn’t quite wipe the smile off his face as the final buzzer went off, a picture-perfect performance by his squad and one that busted just about every bracket in the country. Here’s everything you need to know about Odom:
1. Odom Took Over at UMBC in 2016
Odom was named the ninth men’s basketball coach in UMBC history in April 2016 and led the Retrievers to the program’s first winning since 2007-08 that season. He was named the winner of the 2017 Joe B. Hall Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in Division I.
Retrievers athletic director Tim Hall released a statement regarding Odom’s hiring, saying:
Ryan is an excellent coach, but a better person. He has laid the foundation this year for sustained success. This award is confirmation that he is the right leader for Retriever men’s basketball.
UMBC won 21 games in the 2016-17 season, the second most in school history and the program finished as the nation’s third-most improved team, with a +13 mark, just behind Minnesota and UCLA.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Odom signed a contract worth $160,000 in his first year with UMBC. And, as far as the Retrievers are concerned, Odom has been worth every, single penny. UMBC defeated top-seed Vermont in the America East championship game this year to earn its berth to the NCAA Tournament.
2. He Played College Basketball at Hampden-Sydney
Odom graduated from Hampden-Sydney in 1996 where he was a four-year starter on the men’s basketball team. He honed his future coaching skills as the squad’s point guard, serving as team captain his senior season and leading the team to an 80-30 record over the course of his career.
The future Retrievers coach also led Hampden-Sydney to two NCAA Division III Tournaments appearances and wrapped up his college career as the school’s all-time leader in three-pointers made and fourth in assists.
3. His Father Was Also a College Basketball Coach
Odom has basketball in his genes.
His father, Dave Odom, was a successful college coach in his own right. He retired from South Carolina in 2008 and won SEC Coach of the Year honors 2004. He also picked up ACC Coach of the Year honors in 1991,1994 and 1995 while at Wake Forest University.
“Obviously, it’s in his family,” William & Mary coach Tony Shaver, who coached Odom at Hampden-Sydney told the Baltimore Sun. “Ryan was that type of player. He was a great shooter but very knowledgeable about the game. I mean, he really understood the game, as you can imagine. So all those qualities were there.”
And, in a twist of absolutely fantastic fate, Odom and UVA go way back. He actually served as a ballboy for four years while his father was a Cavaliers assistant from 1982-89.
“Those were seven of the greatest years of the Odom family’s lives,” Dave Odom told The Roanoke Times. “I’ve been asked: ‘Does he coach like you?’ And I say, ‘Diametrically opposite.’ The last play of the [UMBC-Vermont] game tells you all you need to know about Ryan Odom, Dave Odom and Lynn Odom. He has his mother’s patience, his mother’s personality and his mother’s ability to make decisions.”
4. Odom Previously Coached at Lenoir-Rhyne – a Division II Program
Odom took over the head coaching job at Lenoir-Rhyne in 2015 and quickly led the team to victories. The Bears reached the regional finals of the NCAA Division II tournament in his only season on the sidelines, winning 20 games for the first time in eight years. The squad also improved by 10.5 games from the previous season, led the nation in 3-point field goals per game and finished ninth in the country in scoring.
Odom also served as a graduate assistant at South Florida and was an assistant coach at Furman, UNC Asheville and American before spending seven years at Virginia Tech. He then joined the Charlotte coaching staff in 2010, working as an assistant for five years, before being named interim head coach on January 6, 2015.
5. He Led UMBC to a CIT Berth in 2016
Odom and the Retrievers made program history even before their epic NCAA performance. UMBC had never won a postseason game prior to the 2016-17 season, but the squad notched three victories in the CIT and became the first America East team to win three postseason games in any tournament.
He “grew up in a basketball pedigree,” former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg told The Baltimore Sun of Odom. “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.”
This latest postseason win, however, might be a little sweeter. After all, nearly 97 percent of the brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge had UMBC losing to Virginia in the first round.