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Rhode Island and head coach David Cox welcomed a familiar face back to Kingston this past spring. Todd Bozeman, who played from 1982-1986 at Rhode Island and wrapped up his playing days under Brendan Malone, accepted an invite from Cox to join the staff. Bozeman has carved out a successful career in college coaching, most recently as the head coach at Morgan State. Beyond his obvious passion and connection to URI, he checks all the boxes one needs from a veteran assistant. From recruiting to player development to tactical adjustments, Bozeman brings a wealth of knowledge back to Kingston.
I caught up with him for this reintroduction to Rhody chat. We cover his thoughts on stepping back on campus, his relationship with Cox, and a topline take on the 2021-22 Rams.
Chris DiSano: How does it feel to be back at the University of Rhode Island?
Todd Bozeman: I can’t say I ever thought that I would be. It’s a little surreal. You start having flashbacks – my dorm is still there. I had the bottom floor, the single. The fact that they don’t have the bubble here stood out to me. The new arena (Ryan Center). One of my first times walking through Keaney Gym again; that was a little different. The campus has grown and changed. The dining hall is so different. Things like that stand out.
It’s good to be back. My suitemate, Gerald Williams who played football here… for Thanksgiving, I went with the Williams family to their house a couple of times up in Providence while going to school here. I haven’t made my way back up there to see Mrs. Williams yet, but I’ve seen his brothers already. Just seeing people and familiar faces has been good.
CD: Beyond your relationship with Coach David Cox, what else made you say to yourself “Coming back… it’s the right fit for me at the right time?”
TB: To come back to my alma mater, any player or person who didn’t just attend but wore the colors and jerseys, whatever sport it is – I’m always rooting for Rhode Island. To be able to come back and contribute to the program is huge. I welcomed the opportunity. And I know we’re going to get to this, but to be able to come back and work with Coach Cox – and we’ve had the experience already together on the AAU scene. We’ve done that. That was enticing to me as well. To be able to come back to Rhode Island is special.
CD: You just touched upon it, so dig in. Your relationship with Coach Cox… for those who might be unfamiliar can you share some context?
TB: We’ve known each other over 25 years. We coached AAU ball together; I was his assistant on the DC Assault team. I thought we had great chemistry. We had a very talented team and had a lot of success. We stayed in touch — and he’s been in college coaching and had experiences at different places. I think he’s a bright, bright coach. I think he’s a terrific offensive mind. Now when you say that [laughs] people think “oh well what about defense…”, that’s not what I’m saying (laughs)… He has a great mind.
He’s a first-class person. He cares about people. His background in being an educator is huge. You can see it in the way he interacts with the guys. I, on the other hand, haven’t always been as patient – I have moments, but that’s his thing. It’s been good to work with him and I like the entire staff. They have great energy. They’re all younger than my children, except Austin… (laughs); it’s been good. It’s been a good reunion.
Check out the dance moves from former NBA scout and assistant coach Todd Bozeman in another edition of “Mic’d Up” presented by Beltone! 👀#TheRhodyWay #GoRhody pic.twitter.com/LXC7H49IJJ
— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) November 3, 2021
CD: What are your impressions about Coach Cox in his approach and how he’s grown over the years?
TB: I was working with him with DC Assault and I had already been a college coach for many years. He was still on the way towards coaching in college. You can see the experience in him now. He was good then, he’s even better now because He’s got some seasoning and has been able to take from each coach he’s worked with: Jamie Dixon, John Thompson III, Eddie Jordan, and Danny Hurley. You can see that. I think that he’s sharpened that sense by taking positives, what works for him, and combined it. He’s done exactly what you would think someone would do in taking the knowledge and improving and growing.
CD: You’ve chatted about how Coach Cox is more seasoned, obviously you’re incredibly seasoned with 20+ years of experience, major D-1 experience. How has that experience shaped you?
TB: I don’t have as much emotion attached to decisions as when I was, let’s say, in my 20’s. There aren’t a whole lot of scenarios that I haven’t been through. That doesn’t mean I handled them all right. But experience is experience. So, if you have a chance to see something that you’ve seen before and can identify and handle it a bit differently, that’s always a plus – in all facets, life and sports. I’m an old school guy. Coming here — and blending old school and new school has helped me to not be as old school (laughs) if that makes sense. I like our staff, the chemistry we have, and the guys – they’re good people.
CD: What are your thoughts on what you’re seeing out of the team so far? What’s an area you anticipate as a team strength?
TB: I like the group and I’m excited about them. They are all good guys. That’s always a plus when you have to spend as much time together as we do. Experience is a strength. I tell these guys that they have to give themselves a little bit of room from last year because they had transfers and COVID plus no consistency or continuity in schedule. Clearly everybody dealt with COVID last year, but everybody didn’t deal with it the same way. Now the transfers have been here and they are really grasping the system. I’ve been impressed. The talent level is high, and Sheppard has been leading the way. Our strengths will be that experience and our balance.
CD: Let’s discuss Ishmael Leggett for a moment, who showed last season that he is going to be a good guard in this league and possesses many intangibles of a winner. What lessons can you impart upon him given your experience coaching a transcendent player in Jason Kidd while at Cal – along with other very talented players?
TB: Gaining more knowledge; he does it already but continuing to enhance film work… He has that fearlessness. There’s a different beat going on in his ear – in a good way – and he’s comfortable in his own skin. That’s an honorable quality. As long as he keeps thirsting to be great and searching for that – he’s going to get it. He has that quality of not being afraid to fail.
CD: What are your impressions of the Atlantic 10 and how much are you looking forward to coaching in the league? St. Bonaventure, Richmond and others are getting a lot of play in the media.
TB: It’s tough. It’s right there scraping below the Power 5. I was surprised last year that the league didn’t get more teams in the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t truly get the credit it deserves. It’s a really good league. When I was in the league we had West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple and others. There’s been change but teams like Davidson, VCU, and others added to the mix. It’s a high-quality league with very good talent and very good coaches. You have different styles from Chris Mooney to Bob McKillop to Mark Schmidt, new guys like Billy Lange, Ashley Howard – I use these as examples of different styles. I remember talking to a coach in the Big 10 once and he said “Boze, nobody presses in the Big 10.” That struck me. This league you have different programs playing different ways – so you have to be prepared for that. Top to bottom, it’s a great league.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named an NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44