Todd Bozeman — you all remember him — held court with a 22-minute podium press conference today at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The former Cal coach, now 45 and the coach at Morgan State, addressed a range of topics, including the recruiting sins that led to his ouster from Berkeley in 1996 and subsequent seven-year ban by the NCAA.
Bozeman was emotional, passionate, excited and never bitter as he discussed getting Morgan State’s Bears into the NCAAs for the first time in history. His team plays No. 2 seed Oklahoma Thursday night in a South Regional game.
He laughed when asked about seeing Morgan State sent to the same site as Cal.
“Well, I can’t say that I didn’t raise an eyebrow,” he said. “I smiled because I know that although the circumstances of me leaving Cal weren’t necesarily the greatest, I still have a lot of family and friends out there — we kind of call them framily. There’s probably more that think positive of me than negative.”
Bozeman apologized for his mistake years ago and said he has buried the past. He also said he has talked often to young coaches about avoiding the path he took when he paid the father of recruit Jelani Gardner $30,000.
“I definitely have told them, `Guys, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.”
Bozeman said he never doubted he would get a second chance, and hasn’t ever lost the passion he had as a young head coach in Berkeley.
“I always thought I’d have a chance. I didn’t know when it would happen. Maybe I’d be a volunteer coach at 75. But I was determined to get back in,” he said. “A lot of it was for my dad. I thought I embarrassed him.”
Bozeman’s father died three years ago, a few months before Todd was hired at Morgan State.
“I think of him every single day, sometimes four or five times a day,” he said. “A friend of mine told me every time you see a penny on the ground, think of it as your dad, telling you he’s walking with you. I pick up pennies all the time.”
The essence of Bozeman seems very much the same as when he was in Berkeley. Still very confident, his emotions riding on his sleeve. More mature, a few pounds heavier, he admits.
And very grateful.
“I feel so fortunate to be coaching,” he said. “I can’t even put it into words. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”