Coppin State great Larry Stewart wants to fulfill a ‘dream’ in coaching the Eagles — Andscape
On the day in late 2021 when Coppin State named its basketball court after legendary coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell, the school’s then-head coach Juan Dixon used his time at the microphone in an attempt to create a connection to the program’s glory days.
“All the former players, we need you,” Dixon pleaded. “This is your family. This is your home. This is our program.”
That program, just over a year following that plea, is at a crossroads as it seeks a new coach following the firing of Dixon last month. Coppin had six losing seasons under Dixon’s watch, reaching double-digit wins just once.
It wasn’t the consistent losing that put Coppin and Dixon in the headlines last year. It was the salacious details of a catfishing scandal that led to a lawsuit filed in November 2022 by a former player alleging he was blackmailed and sexually assaulted by a member of the Coppin State coaching staff.
“The catfishing story didn’t put a good light on our program,” said Kyle Locke, who played at Coppin during its dominant stretch in the 1990s. “There has to be pride in leadership in this program, and we can do that now with who we hire.”
While Derek Carter, the director of athletics at Coppin, refused to answer questions about the search for a new coach, a source told Andscape the list of candidates has been narrowed to four:
- Bino Ranson, currently an assistant coach at DePaul following 11 seasons as an assistant at Maryland.
- Jake Morton, an assistant coach at East Carolina whose stops include two years as an assistant at Coppin State (2014-16).
- Xavier Joyner, an assistant coach at James Madison who has coached at the college, prep and AAU levels.
- Larry Stewart, an assistant coach at Morgan State, who played four seasons in the NBA following a decorated career at Coppin State, where he led the Eagles to the school’s first Division I NCAA tournament appearance.
Ranson, who was a finalist for the Coppin job in 2014, has strong ties to the area. Before his long stint at Maryland, Ranson had coached for two years at Saint Frances Academy in Baltimore. He’s a childhood friend of Dixon’s.
Morton’s two years as an assistant coach at Coppin were during the first two years of Michael Grant’s stint as head coach. Grant was fired after three-seasons (25-69).
Stewart is a basketball legend at Coppin emerging as Coppin’s first big star after making the school’s transition to Division I in 1985. Stewart was a two-time Mid-Eastern Conference Athletic Conference player of the year in three years at Coppin (1988-91), and was a pivotal player on the school’s first Division I NCAA tournament team in 1990.
After leaving Coppin, Stewart signed with the Washington Bullets and became the first unsigned player to make an NBA All-Rookie team. In 2012, Stewart was inducted into the Coppin State Hall of Fame.
“This would be a dream for me because I bleed blue and gold,” Stewart said. “I’ve learned a lot as an assistant, and the skills I’ve picked up running a program and building relationships with players would help if I got the job.”
Dixon’s comment during the Fang Mitchell court dedication ceremony in October 2021 was telling: While the former Maryland star was entering his fourth year as coach, he was still seeking a connection to the players and coaches who were a part of Coppin’s dominant run in the 1990s, which included three NCAA appearances and eight MEAC regular-season titles.
“You look at schools like Duke and North Carolina, and those former players are always there,” said Locke. “There’s been a big disconnect with the program and the former players in recent years. We need someone to get the former players engaged and excited about the program.”
Stewart said that would not be a problem.
“I’m on a group text message chat with a lot of the former players, and we talk all the time,” Stewart said. “They’re already on board. They’re just waiting for that opportunity.”